Action plan on Fipronil contaminated eggs

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Food legislation (EU General Food Law) promises preventative protection against health hazards and against fraud. As in other food scandals in the past, the Fipronil scandal shows that in reality, consumers cannot rely on this promise. Again and again, the spirit of food legislation is basically violated, and effective prevention is not guaranteed. This would be imperative in the food market: A damaged vacuum cleaner can be returned, but not a Fipronil egg that has been consumed already!

The Fipronil scandal demonstrates that applicable law is violated because legal requirements are not implemented consistently or not observed. Moreover, there are considerable legal loopholes that facilitate an incident like the Fipronil scandal. This has meant that the usual pattern of food scandals repeats itself: Food that is hazardous to health was already consumed before the consumers were informed.

In order to avoid cases like this in the future, the following must take place:

1. Guarantee traceability

Currently, food companies are not required to know the entire supply chain, but rather merely their supplier and buyer (one step back and one step forwards).  This has to change. The Fipronil scandal also suggests that not even the current legal requirements were followed: According to statements by multiple industry experts, suppliers and buyers were not adequately documented, so that it could not directly be traced in which food contaminated eggs were processed. 

2. Create preventative incentives for companies

Fraud in the food sector must no longer be profitable. In addition to effective tests by public authorities, manufacturers must be legally obligated to comprehensively test their own products for possible health risks and to register these tests with the authorities. If companies violate these or other requirements, they must be threatened with damage-dependent and shockingly high fines. In addition, the burden of proof should be reversed. Consumers should not have to prove that they have suffered damage to their health by consuming some food, but rather the companies must be able to prove that no dangers emanate from their products.

3. Authorities must disclose information

Authorities should no longer withhold health-relevant information from consumers in order to protect the financial interests of the manufacturer. All test results of official food tests must be publicised without delay, including identification of manufacturer and product names.

In addition, the information must be made accessible to as many consumers as possible and prepared in an understandable format. In the case of Fipronil, the public was not sufficiently informed about the contamination-level by the authorities. Several authorities have given an all-clear signal way too soon. This should not happen again. Authorities and companies must be required to use all channels available to them to circulate food warnings.

Bild: fotolia.com/PPicture

Last update August 18, 2017