Fipronil is commonly used to get rid of fleas, lice and ticks but is banned by the European Union for use on animals destined for human consumption, such as chickens. The World Health Organization (WHO) says fipronil is "moderately toxic" to people if it is eaten in large quantities, and can have dangerous effects on the kidneys, liver and thyroid glands.
The contamination was discovered on Dutch poultry farms, and some 180 farms - which produce millions of eggs a week - have been temporarily shut down while further tests are carried out. 138 poultry farms remain closed, with one batch of eggs posing "an acute danger to public health". Eggs from another 59 farms contained high enough levels of fipronil that the food authority warned they should not be eaten by children.
The Netherlands’ CPL retailer has removed all eggs at risk of contamination from its shelves throughout the country. Albert Heijin, the Netherlands’ biggest supermarket chain has removed two thirds of 38 types of eggs despite possible losses.
Aldi and Lidl stores in Germany have already taken millions of eggs off shelves amid fears they are tainted with traces of the pesticide Fipronil. Two other German supermarket chains, Rewe and Penny, have stopped selling all Dutch eggs. 190 stores of Aldi Suisse in southern Switzerland have stopped selling imported eggs. Supermarkets in Belgium, Sweden, and Switzerland have followed suit. The United Arab Emirates has ordered tightened inspection of eggs imported from the Netherlands.
The Netherlands is one of the world’s largest exporters of eggs and egg products. The fipronil-contaminated egg scandal will likely cause serious consequences for the Dutch livestock production sector and its economy in general. According to the Dutch Industry Group LTO, millions of hens may need to be culled in the Netherlands. 300,000 of them have been culled. The group says poultry farmers may suffer losses of approximately 12 million USD. These losses would ratchet up the strain on Dutch farmers who culled 190,000 chickens last year due to a bird flu outbreak.
According to the Statistics Netherlands, the country’s agriculture-related exports amounted to 94 billion euros including 85 billion euros from agricultural products. The fipronil egg scandal is likely to negatively affect the Dutch economy.