Investigations ongoing into possible use of fipronil on animals

Taipei-After eggs from three farms in Changhua County were found to contain excessive levels of the highly toxic insecticide fipronil, an animal disease control official in Changhua County said on Tuesday that the owners of all three farms denied using the chemical.

Despite the denial, all 69,500 hens at two farms in Zhutang Township and one in Erlin Township have been quarantined, said Changhua Animal Disease Control Center Director Tung Meng-chih (???).

At the same time, about 34,000 eggs packed in 170 cases at the farms will be destroyed, Tung added.

He further said that although all the hen keepers concerned deny using fipronil, it is possible the situation has been caused by routine de-fleaing of hens at the farms, which is conducted twice a year.

Farm keepers could have possibly spread fipronil to kill fleas on the hens and accidentally tainted their feed.

"Only hens that eat insecticide-laced feed can produce fipronil-contained eggs," Tung said.

Agricultural authorities tested eggs from 45 farms around the island over the past few weeks and found those from the Lien Cheng (??), Kuo Ho (??) and Wen Cheng (??) farms in Changhua to be contaminated with the insecticide at concentration levels of 153 parts-per-billion (ppb), 22ppb, and 5ppb, respectively, according to the Council of Agriculture (COA).

The COA, the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Environmental Protection Administration have launched a joint investigation into the case. Instant measures have been taken, including restricting all movement of the suspect hens and eggs and an inspection of more than 2,000 chicken farms around Taiwan.

The inspection could be completed by Friday, said Hsu Fu (??), head of the Executive Yuan's Food Saftey Office.

According to Huang Tze-chung (???), head of the COA's Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine, anyone found using fipronil on animals is subject to a fine ranging from NT$60,000 (US$1,980) to NT$300,000.

The European Union has set a maximum residue limit for fipronil in eggs of 5 ppb (or 0.005 mg/kg) and Taiwan follows that standard, but the use of fipronil to produce food for human consumption is illegal in Europe.

The World Health Organization considers fipronil to be "moderately toxic" to humans. Long-term exposure to Fipronil can cause damage to kidneys, liver and the thyroid gland. It can also cause "nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dizziness and epileptic seizures."

The United States Environmental Protection Agency classifies fipronil as a possible human carcinogen based on an increase in thyroid follicular cell tumors in rats.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel