The EU must improve information sharing on food safety risks and sanction fraudulent pesticide producers, Agriculture MEPs said in a debate on Thursday.

In a debate on the contamination of eggs with the insecticide Fipronil, many MEPs criticised member states for delays in notifying the EU’s Rapid alert system for food and feed (RASFF).

 

“We are talking about (...) months (...) delay” when “consumers were not made aware, authorities were not made aware”, said Clara Eugenia AGUILERA GARCÍA (S&D, ES) stressing that the RASFF “must be revised”.

 

This was echoed by many MEPs. “The early warning system RASFF is not rapid enough or effective enough” and must be made “up to snuff”, said Ulrike MÜLLER (ALDE, DE). Marco ZULLO (EFDD, IT) agreed but insisted that traceability system must be improved too. Michel DANTIN (EPP, FR) even suggested fines for EU states who fail to share crucial food safety information.

 

Red flag for fraudulent suppliers of pest-controls products

 

But the debate with Sabine Jülicher, the Director for food and feed safety, innovation at the EU Commission’s Directorate General for Health and Food Safety, focused also on the red mite, the poultry parasite against which the Fipronil-containing product was being used.

 

“Tackling red mite infestation is a big challenge for poultry sector”, said Mairead McGUINNESS (EPP, IE) insisting that the Commission must come up with “more effective controls” and “very large red flag to any producers or suppliers of [pest-control] products who would use illegal means to tackle red mites”.

 

Effectiveness of pest control: large intensive v. small organic farming

 

Several MEPs blamed intensive industrial farming for the extent of the scandal. “Smaller companies seem to have less problems with these red mites” than bigger ones, said Martin HÄUSLING (Greens/EFA, DE). “The best thing (...) for people’s health (...) is more organic, natural type of agriculture on a local scale”, insisted Maria Lidia SENRA RODRÍGUEZ (GUE/NGL, ES).

 

But other MEPs insisted that red mites are spreading also on smaller agricultural holdings. Red mites are “known by all farmers, organic farmers were affected by these too”, said Mr Dantin. “Red mite has to be controlled” as “it can happen anywhere” be it a large or a small farm, James NICHOLSON (ECR, UK) agreed.

 

The full debate is available now via VOD.

 

Quick Facts

 

Fipronil, an insecticide used inter alia to kill fleas and mites, is classified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as moderately hazardous. Its use in the EU is prohibited for all food-producing animals.

 

The illegal use of Fipronil on poultry farms was first reported to the European Commission through the EU’s Rapid alert system for food and feed (RASFF) on 20 July. Most of these farms were located in the Netherlands and Belgium.

 

So far, 22 EU member states have been affected by the scandal. Millions of chicken eggs have already been withdrawn from the EU market and all farms where products containing Fipronil could have been used have been blocked from placing their potentially tainted products on the market.

 

According to the Commission’s data, the usable production of eggs in the EU reached around 7 million tons in 2013. EU citizens consumed in the same year on average 12 kg of eggs.