||1. What is fipronil ?
Fipronil is an insecticide applied when controlling lice, mites and other invertebrate parasites on domestic animals. The substance can be allowed in the food chain as a plant protection product.
2. Why is there now a problem with fipronil ?
Fipronil is an insecticide that is not approved for use in animals intended for the food chain. Therefore, effects in the food chain and public health effects are not sufficiently documented. An investigation of the FASFC in close collaboration with the justice department revealed the use of fipronil in the poultry sector when controlling red mites in laying hens. Using the product in this context is not allowed and consequently there were no routine investigations concerning this substance.
3. Which standards are used ?
For eggs, a first limit of 0.005 mg/kg is determined. This is the so called MRL (maximal residue limit). As fipronil is not allowed in poultry, this is the limit for withdrawing eggs from the market. A European risk assessment indicates a possible health risk when a concentration of 0.009 mg/kg bodyweight is exceeded. Based on this concentration and European consumption patterns, a risk value in eggs of 0.73 mg/kg is determined. Because of this, eggs containing fipronil above this value are being recalled from consumers.
4. Anyway why are eggs now being recalled from consumers ?
Some analyses which have been carried out in the beginning, appear to have a much larger measurement uncertainty than expected. In other words, doubts have arisen concerning the reliability of the analysis result. Consequently, the precautionary principle is being applied and it is better that the eggs in question are recalled from consumers. It is advised to no longer consume these eggs.
5. What kind of batches of eggs are subjected to a recall ?
The batches of eggs with the following batch numbers : see document on the website. The number is mentioned on the egg. The first 4 numbers, following BE, identify the producer. Eggs with the code that is being recalled, can be returned to the food store. If there is no number mentioned on the egg, you can contact the food store where you bought the eggs. They can look up the producer of the eggs. Eggs that are returned to the store are being destroyed.
Eggs coming from The Netherlands will have the letters NL in their codes. You can check the codes on the website of the nVWA: https://www.nvwa.nl/onderwerpen/biociden/fipronil-in-eieren/eicodelijst
6. Is it still safe to eat other eggs than these ?
Yes. All suspected poultry businesses in Belgium are blocked, they were inspected and samples were taken. It is only after compliant results of the analyses that the establishments will be released. Eggs which are now on the market are safe for consumers.
7. Is it safe to eat eggs from your own chickens
Yes. If you fight red mites in your chickens with an approved product, which you bought through the regular channels, there is no problem. These products won’t contain fipronil.
8. Are products in which eggs are processed safe ?
These products are safe because in food prepared with eggs the value measured will still be lower owing to the dilution effect.
9. Why is there only a problem in eggs and not in poultry meat ?
There are no indications that fipronil was used in the sector of broiler chickens where red mites are not a problem because these broiler chickens are slaughtered at a very young age. This is confirmed by analyses the FASFC has carried out.
10. What are the health issues related to fipronil?
Fipronil is harmful for the kidneys, the liver and the thyroid gland. It is not a carcinogen and it doesn’t have a harmful effect on reproduction of the unborn child. From the sporadic cases of poisoning with the pure product is known that the symptoms can lead to nausea, abdominal pain and dizziness. The concentrations that are currently found in effs are too low to cause these symptoms.
11. What is the difference between a market withdrawal and a product recall?
Food businesses may only sell compliant products, i.e. products that meet legal requirements. When, at any given time, a product offered for sale is found to be non-compliant, i.e. the product does not meet the legal requirements, the food business operator immediately has to take action.
The measures that have to be taken depend on the nature of the product and the stage of the food chain in which the non-compliance is established.
- If the non-compliance pertains to basic foodstuffs (e.g. eggs) which do not meet the requirements, the products have to be blocked (they can no longer be used). If the food business has purchased the products concerned, the FASFC has to be informed about the responsible supplier. This way, the Agency can conduct an investigation at the supplier’s business and carry out a market withdrawal. The food business concerned also has to notify its customers.
- The same goes for processed products, such as biscuits and other products that contain eggs. The manufacturer has to block the products and notify the FASFC if, in the meantime, any of these products have left the manufacturing plant. The manufacturer immediately has to withdraw the products from the market and has to notify the business’s customers that the products may no longer be sold.
ATTENTION: if there are reasons to assume that the products pose a threat to public health, the consumer has to be notified immediately !
In short, there are three possible measures:
- Blocking the products: leaving the products at the specified location (at the business premises), no longer use the products and no longer supply them to customers. In concrete terms, this means that the products may no longer be sold.
- Market withdrawal: the products concerned have to be taken off the shelves of wholesale and retail businesses (no product recall)
- A recall in case the products pose a threat to public health: urging customers not to consume or use the products and take them back to the store.
The person or business that offers the product for sale (the manufacturer, importer, retailer or wholesaler,...) is responsible for informing the consumer.
To this end, they have to draw up a press release to inform the Belgian press. If they fail to do so, the FASFC will draw up and issue a press release and give the non-compliant business a warning or serve them with a procès-verbal (PV).
The FASFC also publishes press releases on recalls on its website to inform consumers. These press releases can be found on www.fasfc.be under the heading ‘Consumers’ -> ‘Product recalls’ (this page is only available in Dutch and French).
What about contaminated eggs and processed products containing eggs?
All eggs and processed products containing eggs in which Fipronil levels were found that exceeded the MRLs were taken off the shelves and destroyed!
Laying hen farms where contaminated eggs were found, were blocked immediately. The eggs that had not left the farm yet were destroyed. These businesses also immediately notified their customers.
Egg-breaking plants and packing plants... in their turn also notified their own customers. All eggs of the blocked laying hen farms were also withdrawn from the market and destroyed in the stages further down the food chain. This means that the eggs concerned could no longer be processed and reach the shop shelves.
Eggs that had already reached the shops were taken off the shelves and destroyed.
A recall was only required for one single batch code: 3BE3114. In the eggs of this laying hen farm Fipronil levels were found that exceeded the European reference value. In this particular case, informing the consumers was thus inevitable. This information was disseminated by means of a press release and via our social media.
The other eggs in which Fipronil was found did not pose a health risk. The levels of Fipronil that were established, remained well below the European reference value. A product recall was not organized for these eggs, but they were withdrawn from the market.
Processing plants that had already used eggs from the blocked laying hen farms in their products were asked to conduct an investigation. All non-compliant products have to be withdrawn from the market.
These businesses are legally required to inform their customers who, in their turn, have to take the processed products off their shelves (market withdrawal).
A recall is only necessary if the levels of Fipronil exceed the European reference value, i.e. if the public health is compromised.
ATTENTION: To date, no Fipronil levels exceeding the European reference value have been found. Thus far, a product recall has not been necessary. In case of a recall, the FASFC will immediately issue a press release to inform the customers!