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Eggs contamination scandal spreads to 15 EU countries

The contamination scandal that has prompted the withdrawal of millions of eggs from sale in Europe has spread to 15 EU countries and as far afield as Hong Kong, European officials said on Friday.

The European Commission said it would convene a meeting of EU health ministers next month to discuss the contamination and its spread.

Eggs contaminated with the insecticide Fipronil had been found at farms in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and France, while tainted eggs had been sent to 12 EU countries, ranging from Ireland to Slovakia and Sweden.

Two non-EU countries, Switzerland and Hong Kong, also appear to be affected, Brussels said.

This is the latest in a string of food scares to hit multiple countries in Europe, the last serious one being the identification of horsemeat in beef products in 2013.

The scope of the scandal widened as police in Belgium and the Netherlands continue criminal investigations into how Fipronil — used to control parasites on domestic pets — could have made it into eggs destined for human consumption. National politicians have been sparring over alleged lapses in oversight that allowed the contaminated eggs to spread so far.

Belgian and Dutch ministers have each accused the other of being slow to act on evidence of the problem and alert other EU countries. Police from both countries have formed a “joint investigation team” to get to the bottom of the issue, leading to the arrest of two directors of a Dutch decontamination centre for chickens on Thursday.

A spokeswoman for the European Commission said on Friday that it would organise a “high-level meeting” of health ministers and government experts on September 26 to try to learn lessons from the scandal, amid signs that national officials were slow to activate an EU rapid alert system for food contamination.

The intention was to hold the meeting with “some distance to ongoing events”, the spokeswoman said.

“We would like to have as many facts established as…

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