Police in the Netherlands have detained two men suspected of being involved in the illegal use of a pesticide in the poultry industry. Millions of fipronil-contaminated eggs have been recalled since the scandal broke.
Dutch prosecutors said in a statement Thursday the men are directors of a company that allegedly used an unauthorized insecticide at poultry farms.
Investigators in the Netherlands and Belgium made the arrests during a string of coordinated raids linked to their probe into how fipronil, which can be harmful to humans, made it into the food chain.
"The Dutch investigation focused on the Dutch company that allegedly used fipronil, a Belgian supplier as well as a Dutch company that colluded with the Belgian supplier," the prosecutors' said.
"They are suspected of putting public health in danger by supplying and using fipronil in pens containing egg-laying chickens."
The insecticide is a common ingredient in anti-lice treatments, but it is banned from being used on animals destined for human consumption. Fipronil can be hazardous to humans' kidneys, liver and thyroid glands, according to the World Health Organization, but only if consumed in unusually large quantities.
Contaminated eggs have since been reported in a number of other European countries, including Sweden, Switzerland, Luxembourg, France and the UK.
British authorities reported Thursday that around 700,000 eggs from affected Dutch farms had been distributed in Britain. The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) said the eggs were mixed in large batches to be used in processed foods and not sold fresh, as they were in countries like the Netherlands and Germany. Four major British grocery chains have withdrawn such products, including sandwiches and salads, the FSA said in a statement.
"However, as this represents 0.007 per cent of the eggs we consume in the UK every year, it remains the case that it is very unlikely that there is any risk to public health from consuming these foods," the statement said. The FSA also said that the recalls were not being carried out owing to safety concerns, but because the ingredient is not authorized for use.
Luxembourg said that eggs sold in the discount supermarket Aldi had been withdrawn after one batch was found to contain sufficient levels of fipronil to potentially pose a threat to young children, who cannot consume as much as adults safely. Aldi earlier this month pulled all Dutch eggs from its stores in Germany.