Here is a brief summary of these debates. As we can see, the views converge and the concern for the health of the population is the key element.
The Council’s representative, Matti Maasikas, said on the 12th of September at the meeting of the Agriculture Ministers that an action plan had been reached, and emphasizedthe need to ensure an effective dissemination of information in these type of cases. The exchange of information between Member States is essential, and this will be discussed on the 26th of September in Brussels.
On behalf of the European Commission, Mr. Vytenis Pvilas Andriukaitis has clarified the sequence of events since November 2016 up until now. He assured that the risk posed by fipronil to human health remains very low. However, such actions can be classified as criminal because they question food security. Food fraud is, in any circumstance, a criminal act. At this time, all contaminated eggs from the risk farms were withdrawn from the domestic market. On the 7th of August, the Commission asked Member States to be vigilant with the chemicals used on farms and all the tests carried out to be notified throughRASFF. The Commission has sent a note about the fipronil contamined eggs to global partners and to the relevant committees of the European Parliament. In October, the Commission will conduct investigations in the four countries where contamination originated. For the 26th of September, he proposed to schedule a definite discussion on how to improve European food safety networks as well as food and feed administrative and alert systems.
The political groups in the European Parliament, have been critical of the RASFF system. According to Mr. Ivo Belet (EPP) the co-operative and rapid information system should work as a machine. In the case of the fipronil contamination crisis, it did not work fast enough. It took weeks before the information shifted from one state to the other. The European system needs to be more efficient. Member States use different systems to inform consumers and this situation needs to be addressed. Miriam Dalli (S & D) said in her speech that many citizens have doubts about the safety of the food they are consuming. In some Member States where contamination occurred, it had been known about this issue for months and nothing was communicated- which is a very serious issue. The risk in this case was small, so we were lucky. But we risk having big problems. It is hoped that it now became clear to everyone that we need fast alert systems. According to Mr. Mark Demesmaeker (ECR), the information system needs to be changed. In his view, the rapid communication system between Member States is moving slow. Ulrike Müller (ALDE) considered that the measures taken so far have not been sufficient. More needs to be done to combat and punish such criminal actions. The system did not work because Member States did not send the information at a sufficient level of alert and it is worrying that the state that was the source of the contamination had been aware of it for six months. Anja Hazekamp (GUE / NGL) called for the use of fipronil to be banned in the EU. Bart Staes (Verts / ALE) believes that the rapid alert system is good, it is useful, but it depends on how Member States use it. Countries that do not comply with the rules of the RASFF system should be fined. John Stuart Agnew (EFDD) asked two key questions: What is the danger to human health, really? Is Fipronil harmful directly to human health or only when it is ingested in large quantities? Mireille d’Ornano (ENF) declared that France has 39 products in which fipronil exceeds the permitted limit. It has been proved to be toxic when consumed and, if ingested regularly, may become a health hazard. The Commission could have requested on-the-spot inspections, but for eight months the Commission did not know anything about fipronil. Regarding anitrax, the Commission says it has not received an alert. Sometimes, it is precisely the lack of alertness of the European institutions that worries citizens. Annie Schreijer-Pierik (EPP) drew attention to the huge financial consequences for the sector- support should be given to breeders who were innocent but affected by the crisis. Marc Tarabella (S&D) asked whether there should not be more money invested for the purchase of incinerators in the Netherlands Eric Andrieu (S & D) pointed out that fipronil is not dangerous, but wondered what would have happened if a very toxic compound had been used. Would we have waited for a year to allert everyone? The EU alert system must be improved, checks and inspections must be made easier, and producers who are innocent should be offered support.
Commissioner Andriukaitis said at the end of the debate that responsibility lies with the Commission, but he needs to hear more arguments and see more research and inspection results in order to be able to give an answer. The rapid alert system has allowed us to find out which states were affected. The question is: how do we use the information and what do we do with it? It is clear that we have to apply this system to improve things. Although the risk to health is very low, victims must be compensated and the guilty should be punished. It is also desirable to improve the use and coordination of the rapid alert and cooperation systems. After the 26th of September, the Commission will come up with a series of data and proposals that will be submitted to Parliament.