Food safety not a priority for Dutch farmers, gov't in fipronil scandal: report

Both the Dutch egg sector and the government did not give food safety high enough priority when it came to the fipronil contaminated egg scandal of last year, a committee headed by former Minister Winnie Sorgdrager concluded after investigating the crisis. The previous government also did not properly inform parliament about what was going on, the committee found, ANP reports.

Regulator NVWA gives food safety "too little attention", according to the committee. And the Ministries of Public Health, Welfare and Sports and Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality - responsible for public health and food quality - are insufficiently aware of their task. The Ministries must do more to strengthen self-regulation in the sector. Now the NVWA is overburdened with this task, while it is up to the Ministries to monitor it, the committee said.

Hundreds of Dutch poultry farms were temporarily on lockdown last year after toxic pesticide fipronil was found in their eggs. Thousands of laying hens were culled and countless eggs were destroyed. The contamination occurred when Barneveld company ChickFriend used a fipronil containing pesticide to combat blood lice at the farms. 

According to the committee, "alarm bells" should have sounded to the chicken farmers when a "panacea" against this parasite suddenly appeared. After the contamination was discovered, it took too long before there was insight into the risks to public health. "Economic and financial interests should never be given priority over the importance of food safety", Sorgdrager said. 

Food in the Netherlands is safe, Sorgdrager said. "But we have to get food safety more on our minds That is not a top priority in many sectors." This leads to too many possibilities for fraud with food safety, according to her.