Twenty tonnes of insecticide-tainted eggs have been sold in Denmark, the country’s food safety authority says.
Dutch investigators arrested two suspects Thursday over Europe’s widening tainted egg scandal, as Denmark announced that 20 contaminated tonnes had been sold there.
The boiled and peeled eggs were mainly sold to cafeterias, cafes and catering firms, the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration said in a statement.
Denmark is the latest European country to discover eggs contaminated with fipronil in its food chain.
The insecticide can damage people’s kidneys, liver and thyroid glands if eaten in large quantities.
However, the Danish food administration urged calm, saying the eggs bought by Danæg Products posed no risk to human consumption.
“Samples analysed in the Netherlands show traces of fipronil in the eggs, but not as a health hazard,” the agency said [in Danish]. “Because the content is illegal, Danæg Products must withdraw the eggs from their customers.”
Denmark is believed to be the tenth country affected by the widening scandal, with Romania and Luxembourg among the latest to report finding contaminated products.
The scandal also spread eastwards on Thursday as a tonne of contaminated egg yolk was found in Romania, and 21 boxes of the tainted eggs were discovered in Slovakia.
It also reached Luxembourg, while Britain said it had imported 700,000 eggs from Dutch farms linked to the scandal — far more than first thought. Sweden and Switzerland have also found contaminated eggs.
The majority of the eggs have originated from the Netherlands, but also from Belgium and Germany.
Romanian authorities said on Thursday that one tonne of liquid egg yolk contaminated with fipronil had been found in a warehouse in the west of the country.
The product was imported from Germany but had not been sold to consumers, food safety officials said.
It also emerged on Thursday that two managers at a Dutch company had been arrested during joint raids by Dutch and Belgian authorities.
With questions growing about how the contamination happened and whether consumers have been kept in the dark, pressure has grown on the two countries at the centre of the scandal — the Netherlands and Belgium.
In joint raids with Belgium, Dutch prosecutors said they had arrested “two managers at the company that allegedly used the substance at poultry farms,” with Dutch media naming the suspects’ firm as Chickfriend.
Farmers in the Netherlands — one of Europe’s biggest egg exporters — and Belgium have previously identified Chickfriend as the company that they hired to treat their chickens to eradicate the parasite red lice.
Fipronil is banned from use in the food industry under EU rules.
In a statement, the prosecutors said investigators were also focused on a Belgian supplier, and another Dutch company “that colluded with the Belgian supplier”.
‘Prohibited products’ seized
Dutch authorities said the raids also focused on a Belgian supplier of fipronil, named in the media as Poultry-Vision, and another unidentified Dutch company that allegedly colluded with it.
“They are suspected of putting public health in danger by supplying and using fipronil in pens containing egg-laying chickens,” prosecutors’ spokeswoman Marieke van der Molen said.
Belgian investigators meanwhile identified 26 people or companies as suspects during the 11 raids by police and food safety agency officers, for offences including fraud and breaking EU food laws.
Investigators seized paperwork, cars, banking details and fixed assets in both countries. They said they had also seized 6,000 litres of “prohibited products” in Belgium.
The joint offensive came despite Belgium earlier accusing the Netherlands of knowing about the problem of fipronil in eggs since November 2016, but failing to inform them until July.
The Netherlands denied the charge.
Chickfriend, a poultry farm cleaning company, is yet to comment.
Investigators in Belgium have also carried out several raids and identified 26 people or companies as suspects, AFP news agency reports.
Some 6,000 litres of “prohibited products” were seized in Belgium.
Egg sandwiches withdrawn in UK
In the UK, the Food Standards Agency now says about 700,000 eggs have been imported from potentially contaminated Dutch farms, up from an early estimate of 21,000,
But it said it was very unlikely that there was a risk to public health.
However, 11 products containing egg – including sandwiches and salads – have been withdrawn from supermarkets.
The Netherlands is Europe’s biggest egg producer – and one of the largest exporters of eggs and egg products in the world.
Some 180 farms – which produce millions of eggs a week – have been temporarily shut down while further tests are carried out.
It is thought that fipronil was added to an allowable treatment for red mites.
The problem first surfaced earlier in August, when Aldi withdrew all its eggs from sale in Germany.
It has since emerged Belgian officials knew about the contamination in June, but did not make the information public because of a fraud investigation.