‘Commission slow to act on health concerns’

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DUP MEP Diane Dodds has expressed shock at the scale of the problem of Fipronil residue found in eggs and poultry meat in the Netherlands and Belgium and demanded that the Commission do more to stamp out the use of substances that are banned in the food chain.

Speaking at this week’s Agriculture Committee in Brussels Mrs Dodds said every consumer has the right to expect that their food will be nutritious, safe and traceable.

She added: “Indeed in Northern Ireland we are very proud of the efforts that have gone into the safety and traceability of food. This is important for both the domestic and export markets.

“Therefore it is disturbing to hear of the scale of the problem uncovered this July when Fipronil traces were found in eggs and poultry meat.

“The problem is most concentrated in the Netherlands where there are 281 farms affected,  equating to almost a quarter of all egg production. In Belgium 93 farms are affected and other European Member states are impacted to lesser degrees.

“While the Commission was keen to point out that there is only a very small risk to consumer health Fipronil is a substance that is banned in the food chain and questions have to be asked about the immediacy of the European response.

“ It appears that there was a significant time lag from when the problem was first known in the Member State and the notification of the problem to the Rapid Alert System,” Mrs Dodds added.

“The Commission must also make it clear how many eggs and how much poultry meat has been affected. They have indicated that non-compliant poultry meat and eggs have been withdrawn from the market in 22 European Member States, two Members States of the European Economic Area and 10 export countries. 

“To ensure consumer confidence and a level playing field for all egg producers the Commission must also come to Committee with an action plan to prevent a repeat of such occurrences.

“They must also ensure that there are appropriate sanctions for those managing authorities that allowed such practices in their jurisdiction,” the MEP added.

“Whilst we recognise that controlling mites in laying hens is important, and indeed difficult, we should also ensure that the rules around banned substances are obeyed. This is important not only for the security of the food chain but also to ensure that there is a level playing field for egg producers across Europe.”