Dutch food safety agency sued over fipronil scandal

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An agricultural lobbying organization in the Netherlands is filing a lawsuit against the country’s food safety authority NVWA, claiming that the agency’s negligence in the way it handled the situation of fipronil use in egg production caused financial losses to the country’s egg producers.

The plaintiff, Land- en Tuinbouw Organisatie Nederland (LTO), says farmers experienced unnecessary losses because NVWA did not act immediately in November 2016 when it was warned that fipronil, a pesticide that is illegal for use in food production animals, was being used in laying hens, reported Dutch News. Estimates on losses to the Dutch egg industry as a result of the scandal have been as high as EUR150 million (US$176 million). LTO asserts that the losses would have been much less severe if swifter action would have been taken.

Despite the warning in November 2016, NVWA decided not to investigate the situation until the chemical was detected in eggs in June.

The scandal led to the closure of 793 egg production farms in the Netherlands, and about two thirds of those farms remain out of operation.

Fipronil is an insecticide effective against mites. Its use for food-producing animals such as laying hens in Europe is banned due to its tendency to “bioaccumulate” in the body. The levels of Fipronil detected in eggs during the time of the investigation were typically not high enough to pose a risk to people consuming, them but those findings did represent illegal use of the pesticide and a lack of consumer confidence in eggs produced in the Netherlands.

In September, Vytenis Andriukaitis, European commissioner for health and food safety vowed that he would make sure those who illegally used fipronil would be brought to justice.

“We will remain extremely vigilant and will not tolerate that actions of few people put in question the integrity, the reputation and the stability of our entire food chain, one of the economic pillars of the union,” he said.

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