A Dutch court has found two companies liable in a 2017 fipronil egg scandal.

Chickfriend and Chickclean failed to fulfill agreements with poultry farmers in 2016 and 2017 for red mite control in chickens. In this period, about 250 poultry farmers, or 20 percent of such farms in the Netherlands, had cleaning done with Dega-16 by Chickfriend or Chickclean.

Based on evidence, the court assumed the owners knew that the Dega-16 product contained fipronil and that its use to control red mites is prohibited. Dega-16 was presented to customers as an agent consisting of eucalyptus oil and menthol (essential oils).

Issue prompted huge egg recall
Fipronil is authorized to be used as a veterinary medicine to combat fleas, mites and ticks in dogs and cats but forbidden for use in animals intended for the food chain, such as chickens.

The detection of fipronil residues in July 2017 led to millions of eggs being withdrawn from across the European Union. Hong Kong, Lebanon, Liberia, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa also received contaminated egg products. Contamination was caused by illegal use of non-approved veterinary medicinal products in poultry farms.

A total 26 EU countries reported the presence of fipronil in eggs and egg products, with more than 45 nations affected worldwide, including the United States, Israel and Canada.

The incident resulted in the most intensive exchange of information in the history of the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) portal with more than 700 follow-up notifications to the original notice transmitted in 2017.

Claims against NVWA and Belgian supplier
Because of contamination with fipronil, poultry farmers in Europe had to close, eggs were withdrawn from the market and chickens were culled. The court found it was “unlikely” that the stables, chickens, manure and eggs were contaminated with fipronil for any other reason.

A total of 120 poultry farmers claimed damages from Chickfriend and Chickclean and owners of the companies.

According to the companies, the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) did not sufficiently supervise the ban on the use of fipronil. However, this claim was dismissed by the court.

A claim by Chickfriend and Chickclean for damages against the Belgian supplier of Dega-16 was also dismissed. The companies said the supplier added fipronil to Dega-16 without their knowledge. But it was established that this was done at the request of Chickfriend and Chickclean, according to the court.

The amount of compensation per poultry farmer will be determined at a later date in a separate procedure at the court.

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