By Maneka Gandhi
All over Europe eggs have been found to be contaminated by a dangerous pesticide called Fipronil. The eggs originated from poultry farms in Holland. Investigations into the illegal use of Fipronil on poultry farms have led to 180 big poultries being shut down. Millions of eggs and egg-based products like salads, sandwiches and mayonnaise have been pulled from supermarket shelves. So far Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Sweden, Britain, Austria, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Denmark, Switzerland and Hongkong have found Fipronil in their eggs.
Fipronil is an insecticide not permitted for use around animals destined for consumption, or in any products destined for the human food chain. The effects of consuming it? Sweating, nausea, vomiting, headache, stomach pain, dizziness, weakness, and seizures. It can cause abnormalities of the thyroid, liver and kidneys if consumed by humans. Since researchers found thyroid tumours in both male and female rats fed high doses, it has been classified as a “possible human carcinogen” by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
Scientists who fed Fipronil to rats found an increase in seizures. In another study, scientists found long-term exposure to fipronil affecting the reproductive ability of rats, less mating, reduced fertility, smaller litter size, and increased loss of pregnancy. Scientists also found decreased survival and delayed development in offspring.
Early investigation has shown that a company called Poultry Vision in Belgium bought fipronil from Romania, mixed it with DEGA -16, an approved cleaning product, and sold it to Chickfriend in Holland, who sold it to poultries as a pest control services. The most disconcerting part has been the ease with which two men – Martin van de Braak, and Mathijs IJzerman, owners of Chickfriend – were able to avoid scrutiny after offering a “miracle cure” for lice infestation in chickens.
The Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) of fipronil in eggs is set at 0,005 mg/kg within the European Union, as is outlined in Regulation (EC) No 396/2005 of the European Parliament. The Dutch food and product safety board (NVWA) reported that one batch of eggs, originating from one poultry farm in the Netherlands, exceeded 0.72 mg/kg.
Poultries that are badly run and never inspected by competent health inspectors, who come for more than just collecting bribes, suffer from mites. The red mite, also known as poultry mite, infests chickens, and turkeys. Heavy infestations of mites decrease reproductive potential in males, egg production in females, and weight gain in young birds; they can also cause anaemia and death. Other mites, such as the depluming mite, burrows into the base of feather shafts, causing intense irritation, feather pulling and skin lesions.
Different mites attack different areas of the chicken: feather mite, scaly leg mite, tropical fowl mite. Chiggers, harvest mites, red bugs feed on skin cells and lymph. Heavily parasitised birds become droopy, refuse to eat, and may die from starvation and exhaustion. Using good sanitation practices are important to prevent a build-up of mite populations. But most poultries prefer to use strong chemicals.
If eggs have Fipronil in them, obviously the meat of the chickens will. If a pest infestation at a farm is treated with Fipronil, the animals’ skin would absorb the insecticide. The Dutch food safety agency, the NVWA, officials are carrying out checks on chickens bred for meat. Is the use of fipronil in poultries new inspite of it being banned? No.
Here is a blog from Greg O dated 11th May, 2012:
“I’m a professor in the Los Angeles area and want to do a study on Fipronil (Frontline) in eggs. Frontline is a common medication for cats/dogs for the control of fleas. Many people use Frontline to control fleas and mites in their chicken flock, but it turns out, there’s no data on whether the active ingredient (Fipronil) actually makes it into the eggs. …Although Frontline is effective in Chickens, there’s no data on whether it enters the blood and then the eggs… I’d like to study whether it gets into the eggs.
Were you thinking of using Frontline on your flock this year? If so, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would ask to get some of your eggs before you give fipronil to your chickens and then for a period of weeks afterward (not every egg, just one every week or so). I’d promise to share my results with you and the entire LAUCE community.”
Why this fuss over eggs when Fipronil is being used in India on all our grains and vegetables?
Fipronil was developed by Rhone-Poulenc and placed on the market in 1993 under the US Patent No US 5,232,940 B2. Since 2003, BASF holds the patent rights for fipronil-based products. It belongs to the phenylpyrazole chemical family. It is a white powder with a mouldy odour, used in a wide variety of pesticide products used to kill ants, beetles, cockroaches, fleas, ticks, termites, mole crickets, thrips, rootworms, weevils, stem borers, plant hoppers, leaf folders, gall midges, whorl maggots and moths.
Come to India.
We use Fipranol on everything we eat. Our insecticides, sold freely to illiterate farmers, contain Fipranol to control stem borer insects and leaf folder insects in rice, early shoot borer pests in sugarcane and maize. We use it to control termites. We use it on golf courses and commercial turf. We use it on chillies, fruit and cabbages.
At home, you use it on dogs and cats to control ticks. You are supposed to cover your mouth and eyes, use plastic gloves and put one drop on the neck of the dog, or spray below the hair. It is not to be rubbed in. No one can stroke the dog. It cannot be used on ill or aged animals. It has to be wrapped very carefully in layers of paper before being discarded so that it doesn’t make the other trash toxic.
My hospital has been using it on the dogs that people bring. This is our last resort because so many animals have become ill after its use. Many animals have gone into organ failure. I would not recommend it except in extreme cases. Frontline TopSpot, Fiproguard, Flevox, and PetArmor, Shwanfiproplus, Fiprospurt, Flip Spray, Fipronil S-Methospene Spot On, Fiprovet Spray, Protektor Spray, are some pet products.
It is also used as Gel for cockroaches, called Care and Guard Cockroach Killer and Ranger.
Agriculturally, under the trade name Regent, it is used on moths, butterflies, grasshoppers, locusts, beetles and thrips. Under the name Goliath and Nexa it is used for cockroach and ant control. Under the name Chipco Choice it is used for commercial lawn care, golf courses and cornfields. Under Adonis it is used for locust control. As Termidor, Ultrathor and Taurus, Combat Ant-Rid, Radiate it is used to control termites and ants. Its Indian names are Race, Fipgen for Weed Control, Fiprosik, CGent, Result, Prins, Fipscort, Officer, Fipro-C5, Getter, Replex, Prinol, Egent, V Guard, Himgent, Sharp, Glider, Recent, Quencher, Agent-5, Molgent, Farari, Agenda, Zoom, Balveer, Rider (which promotes itself as organic and natural), Agrican Fighter, Risent, Revolt, Bheem, Sultan, Rellington, Viper, Fipron, Aashirwaad, Fiprofort, Refree, Fiprofit.
Fipronil is not allowed for use on cattle and especially dairy cows. But, in India some Fipronil-based products openly advertise it for dairies. According to studies, lactating animals secrete fipronil through milk, leading to a steady poisoning of the human body. According to the WHO, it can damage the liver, thyroid glands and kidneys if ingested in large amounts over time.
Fipronil goes into the soil where it lasts for upto a year. It is highly toxic to fish, crustaceans and freshwater invertebrates, birds, honey bees, rabbits and chickens. Studies show that non-target insects are also affected (naturally since it is a poison) in field trials for specific pests. Bees are the first to be affected. In May 2003, the French Directorate-General of Food at the Ministry of Agriculture determined that a case of mass bee mortality observed in southern France was related to acute fipronil toxicity and decided to suspend the sale of crop protection products containing Fipronil in France.
Fipronil is one of the chemicals blamed for the disappearance of bees. A 2013 report by the European Food Safety Authority identified fipronil as “a high acute risk” to honeybees when used as a seed treatment for maize and on 16 July, 2013 the EU voted to ban its use on corn and sunflowers within the EU.
If Europe is having problems in supervising its food factories, can you imagine what is happening in India where FSSAI has no inspectors and no apparatus in which the law can be administered.
How did Europe catch the culprits so soon? In the European Union, every egg is stamped with a number. Consumers can retrace the country of origin and which farm the egg is from. The media have published lists of the numbers of contaminated eggs. In India, you have no idea where your eggs, meat or milk come from.