Poultry farmers have again had their demand for government compensation over the fipronil in eggs scandal rejected, this time by appeal court judges, who say it is up to farmers to ensure the quality of their product.
The court ruled that the state did not act wrongfully in its approach to the 2017 crisis and that it could, therefore, not be held responsible for the damages. Millions of eggs and 3.5 million chickens were destroyed when the banned chemical fipronil was found in eggs produced on hundreds of farms.
The farmers and farming organisation LTO say the government’s food and product safety board NNVWA was negligent in dealing with the crisis.
They argued officials ignored reports dating from November 2016 that fipronil had been found in eggs following the use of a delousing agent made by Dutch company ChickFriend.
And they claim if NVWA officials had taken the reports seriously, many farms would not have used the pesticide containing fipronil to control a type of chicken lice, and the scandal would not have become so widespread.
The court, however, said the level of contamination was not sufficient to pose an acute danger to public health. The NVWA, therefore, did not have to shut down the Chickfriend operation immediately.
In 2018, a formal report into the contaminated egg scandal slammed egg producers, government inspectors and ministers for failing to put food safety first. Neither the poultry sector, the food safety board or the two ministries involved showed sufficient concern for food safety when the fipronil crisis broke, the report said.
In particular, the health and farm ministers failed to inform parliament and the public properly about the scandal, while the farming industry put profit ahead of food safety and did not carry out proper checks for banned substances.
The food safety board also showed major failings by not reacting ‘adequately’ when it was first tipped off about the contamination crisis at the end of 2016 and in early 2017.
The court said on Tuesday that the NVWA was free to choose how to tackle Chickfriend, which sold the de-lousing agent. ‘The NVWA is not there to serve the economic interests of poultry farmers,’ the court said. ‘The poultry farmers themselves are primarily responsible for the quality of the eggs they produce.’
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