BRUSSELS • The European Union has called an emergency meeting to stop “blaming and shaming” over the insecticide-tainted eggs scandal as it emerged for the first time that the crisis had spread to Asia.
Hong Kong, Switzerland and 15 EU countries have all received eggs contaminated with the chemical fipronil, which can harm human health, said the European Commission (EC) yesterday, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The Straits Times understands that Singapore does not import eggs from the Netherlands.
With concern going global, the commission said it had called a meeting of ministers and food safety chiefs from the affected EU countries, setting a provisional date of Sept 26.
“Blaming and shaming will get us nowhere, and I want to stop this,” Mr Vytenis Andriukaitis, the European commissioner for health and food safety, told AFP as he announced the meeting.
He urged the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany – the countries at the epicentre of the crisis – to stop trading accusations about who is responsible for the scare.
How the scandal unfolded
June 19: Fipronil, a popular insecticide to treat pets for fleas and ticks, is found in eggs at a Belgian farm, but Belgium keeps quiet about it.
July 20: Belgium notifies the European Commission (EC) about the contamination. The Netherlands, which found fipronil-tainted eggs from seven poultry operations, and Belgium recall millions of eggs over the next few days.
Aug 1: The insecticide scandal becomes public.
Aug 2: The Netherlands begins to shut about 180 poultry farms after finding fipronil in samples taken from eggs, droppings and meat.
Aug 3: Supermarkets in the Netherlands and Germany remove millions of eggs from their shelves
Aug 7: Britain and France say some insecticide-tainted eggs may have entered their countries.
Aug 8: The Dutch authorities say they have started testing chicken meat from poultry farms affected by the scandal
Aug 10: Dutch prosecutors say two managers at the company “that allegedly used the substance at poultry farms” have been arrested. Media identify the firm as Chickfriend.
Meanwhile, the scandal spreads eastwards to Romania and Slovakia.
Aug 10: The British authorities say around 700,000 eggs from Dutch farms implicated in the scandal had been distributed in Britain.
Aug 11: The scandal spreads to Asia, as the EC says 15 European Union countries, as well as non-EU members Switzerland and Hong Kong, are affected.
Dutch Health Minister Edith Schippers, speaking publicly about the matter for the first time, admitted late on Thursday that errors had been made in the government’s handling of the crisis.
Fipronil is commonly used to rid animals of fleas, lice and ticks, but is banned by the EU from use in the food industry.
The EU insists that there is no threat to human health, but the World Health Organisation says that, when consumed in large quantities, fipronil can harm people’s kidneys, livers and thyroid glands.
Millions of eggs and egg-based products have been pulled from European supermarkets, and questions are growing as to who knew what and when.
EC spokesman Mina Andreeva said that “this is not, let’s be clear, a crisis meeting”, and that the talks are being held next month to get “distance to the events”.
Brussels said that the countries affected were Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Sweden, Britain, Austria, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Denmark in the EU, along with Switzerland, which is not a member state.
Brussels also announced that Hong Kong had received some tainted eggs. The southern Chinese city is the first place in Asia known to be affected.
Hong Kong reported finding eggs from the Netherlands that had been contaminated with fipronil, said the commission, without giving further details.
The food scare is one of the biggest to hit Europe since the 2013 horse meat scandal when equine meat was falsely labelled and mis-sold.
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