27 September 2022

Fipronil is an insecticide used by farmers to treat hens against red lice; it is also used for the treatment of domestic pets against parasites, and employed as a pesticide for seeds and crops treatment.

In 2013 the European Commission (EC) restricted itsutilisation due to the “high acute risk” it represents for honey bees. The use of fipronil was also prohibited in food products due to the potential risks it could have on human health and is banned as veterinarian drug for animals intended to human consumption.

The symptoms that may occur due to fipronil ingestion areconvulsions or digestive disorders. National Health Agencies declared that theemergence of a risk for human health would imply a high consumption of fipronil contaminated products during several days.

SAFE believes that a critical issue to be tackled in the future is the absence of a common “Food and Feed Fraud” (FFF) definition at EU level. Indeed, the current EU legislation on the matter only comprises “a basis of understanding”, establishing four operational criteria to detect afraud (Violation of EU Food Law; Intention; Economic Gain; Deception of Customers). Therefore, the legislation in the sector is not harmonised and, while some Member States have voluntarily adopted a definition of food fraud, other countries are still lacking one.

However, it must be stressed that the adoption of a common definition of food fraud at EU level would require an action in the criminal law area, a subject in which Member States are reluctant to lend their cooperation. Furthermore, harmonisation usually entails the risk of approximation, which may result in lowering the standards already granted by some national laws, raising the concerns of several MSs. Another major concern is the fact that several EU Member States are not capable of maintaining a system well-suited to monitoring and incapable to perform a sufficient number of official controls and national authorities often lack the resources to function properly.

The fipronil scandal in several EU countries in 2017 highlighted the need for a more frequent system of official controls, to ensure the respect and implementation of EU norms by all MSs. In this respect, SAFE believes that future actions to better manage food crises in the EU should aim at increasing official controls, strengthening coordination between different procedures (the RASFF and the AAC) and improving the legislation to close the current loopholes.