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Tainted eggs scandal spreads to Britain, France

– ‘Complete transparency’ –

Dutch authorities have shuttered 138 poultry farms — about a fifth of those across the country — and warned that eggs from another 59 farms contained high enough levels of fipronil that they should not be eaten by children.

Belgium currently has production blocked from 51 farms — a quarter of those nationwide — with fipronil found at 21 farms, although levels were ten times below the maximum EU limit, the country’s food safety authority AFSCA said.

Belgium’s agriculture minister meanwhile said he had ordered the agency to report by Tuesday on why it failed to notify neighbouring countries until July 20 despite knowing about fipronil contamination since June.

Denis Ducarme said in a statement he had told (AFSCA) to produce a “report on the circumstances of the agency’s actions since the first information it received about the fipronil problem”

Facing pressure from Germany and the Netherlands, Ducarme promised “complete transparency”.

He said he would speak by telephone with his counterparts in the coming days.

Belgian officials admitted on Saturday they had kept the problem under wraps and failed to trigger the EU’s international food safety alert system, but said it was because of a fraud probe.

Germany has demanded an explanation from Belgium about why the issue was kept covered up.

Fipronil is commonly used in veterinary products to get rid of fleas, lice and ticks. But it is banned from being used to treat animals destined for human consumption, such as chickens.

The substance is absorbed into the skin or feathers of chickens and then passes into the eggs.

In large quantities, the insecticide is considered to be “moderately hazardous” according to the World Health Organization, and can have dangerous effects on people’s kidneys, liver and thyroid glands.

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