Chickens at risk of cull in scandal of tainted eggs

Millions of chickens could be culled in the Netherlands over fears of insecticide-tainted eggs.

An employee at a chemical veterinary examination office in Muenster, northwest Germany, works on eggs to determine toxic residue. Millions of chickens could face a cull.

Millions of chickens could be culled in the Netherlands over fears of insecticide-tainted eggs, an industry body said as Belgium yesterday vowed full transparency about why it had kept the scandal secret.

Supermarkets in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden and Switzerland have pulled millions of eggs from the shelves after fipronil, a substance potentially dangerous to humans, was found in them.

Dutch farming organization LTO said several million hens may need to be culled at 150 companies in the country, with 300,000 having already been killed.

An LTO spokesman said they “had to be eliminated because of contamination.”

Belgium’s agriculture minister said he had ordered the country’s food safety agency to report by today on why it failed to notify neighboring countries until July 20 despite knowing about fipronil contamination since June.

Denis Ducarme said he had told the food safety agency to produce a “report on the circumstances of the agency’s actions since the first information it received about the fipronil problem”

Facing pressure from Germany and the Netherlands, Ducarme promised “complete transparency.” He said he would be speaking to his counterparts in the next few days.

Ducarme added that products from 57 Belgian egg producers — around a quarter of the country’s — had been blocked as a preventative measure.

On Saturday, Belgian officials admitted they kept the problem under wraps and failed to trigger the EU’s international food safety alert system but said this was because of a fraud investigation.

European Commission spokeswoman Anna-Kaisa

Germany has demanded an explanation from Belgium about why the issue was kept covered up.

Fipronil is commonly used in veterinary products to get rid of fleas, lice and ticks. But it is banned from use on animals for human consumption.

In large quantities, the insecticide is considered to be “moderately hazardous” according to the World Health Organization, and can endanger people’s kidneys, liver and thyroid glands.

It is believed the substance was introduced to poultry farms by a Dutch business named Chickfriend to treat red lice, a nasty parasite in chickens.

Media reports that the substance was supplied by a Belgian firm are unconfirmed.

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