Western Mail Country & Farming Column
September 19th 2017

You may remember that last month millions of eggs were pulled from supermarket shelves in more than a dozen European countries, including here in Wales, after it was discovered that some had been contaminated with the potentially harmful insecticide Fipronil. Firpronil is a popular pesticide, often used to de-flea household pets and is also effective at treating red lice, commonly found in poultry.

Due to the low levels of Firpronil in each contaminated egg, it is very unlikely there is any risk to public health from consuming these foods. Nevertheless, the scandal in August raised many questions regarding the EU Rapid Alert System for food and feed, mostly how it can be improved and can we prevent similar scandals from happening in the future. The Rapid Alert System enables quick exchange of information between thirty-one European countries and the European Commission about dangerous non-food products posing a risk to health and safety of consumers.

In a debate held last week in Brussels, it emerged that the Dutch and Belgian authorities failed to notify the European Commission when the Firpronil was first discovered. The system is works only when it is adhered to by participating countries, so it is vital that Member States comply with European procedures to prevent widespread contamination. I think there should be a greater obligation on Member States to notify the Commission, and that there should be fines for failing to share crucial food safety information.

In a scandal like this, we have to consider not only the damage done to the consumers, but also the damage and loss to the hundreds of farmers whose farms were contaminated and whose chickens have now been destroyed. These farmers were not at fault, so EU funds should be made available to help those in need. In this case, Europe needs to step in where the Members State has failed.

Our food and farming industry benefits greatly from the Rapid Alert System. This scandal reminds us of what can go wrong without that system in place. Twenty-four out of twenty-eight Member States as well as three non-EU countries were affected in this instance. Whatever position Wales will be in after March 2019, our continued participation in the Rapid Alert System it is essential as a safety net for our agricultural industry.

Ends

Photo: Jill Evans