The scandal of high levels of fipronil – a banned insecticide for use on farm animals – being discovered in batches of eggs originating from a company in Belgium may be worse than originally feared.
European Commission spokeswoman Anna-Kaisa Itkonen said that the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany warned other countries through the European Union’s food-safety alert system that they may have exported contaminated eggs to them.
A Belgian company is currently being investigated over the substance.
The Belgium government is especially worried as the current crisis has echoes of the dioxin scare in 1999 which eventually brought down the government.
The country launched an investigation in June but did not report the issue to the European Commission until the following month.
An emergency session of the country’s ministers will sit in parliament on Wednesday to examine its food safety measures.
In 1999, toxic dioxins entered the food chain via animal feed from and oil and fat recycling company Vetsmelter Verkest.
Heath authorities sat on the information for months, leading to accusations of a cover-up.
The scandal cost several ministers their jobs and lead to panic amongst shoppers.
Dutch authorities said in late July that they had shut poultry farms after discovering fipronil in batches of eggs.
The country shut 180 businesses last week and, after carrying out, tests said 138 of those would remain closed, with one batch of eggs posing “an acute danger to public health”.
It said that it had warned both Sweden and Switzerland that it had exported eggs to them.
Germany, which purchases Dutch eggs, launched its own investigation in July and warned both France and the UK on August 6 it had sent out contaminated eggs.
More than 20,000 eggs from contaminated farms have been sold and consumed in Britain.
The Food Standards Agency said that the eggs were imported into the UK between March and June.
Supermarket chain Aldi said it had taken its eggs off its shelves as a “purely precautionary” measure and said that eggs sold in its UK stores were produced in Britain.
The FSA insisted there was “unlikely” to be a risk to public health but admitted it was still investigating the distribution of the eggs.
A statement from the FSA read: “Following concerns raised in the Netherlands about a substance called Fipronil which has been used inappropriately in cleaning products on chicken farms, we have identified that a very small number of eggs have been distributed to the UK from…