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Minister Židan: “It is unacceptable for consumers to be at risk again due to the desire for profit”

Brussels, 26 September 2017 – At the invitation of Vytenis Andriukaitis, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Minister Židan attended the Ministerial Conference on the follow-up to the fipronil incident involving eggs affected by this substance.

In the introductory section, Vytenis Andriukaitis, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, presented the latest information and the situation in the EU regarding the establishment of the presence of fipronil in eggs and products containing eggs. In the discussion, the EU Member States clearly determined their positions on this matter and deemed it unacceptable, while they again highlighted the need to improve the exchange of information between the competent authorities and the integration of information systems. The Commission proposed the establishment of a single contact point (person) in Member States, which would ensure better and more prompt responses in such cases. The Member States had different responses to the proposal, but they agreed that a step forward must be taken, which may also mean appointing a single contact person.

 

In his address, Minister Židan considered the fipronil incident another case of certain manufacturers’ desire for greater profits being detrimental to consumers or threatening their health. “It is unacceptable for consumers to be at risk again due to individuals’ desire for profit.” According to the Minister, it was particularly unacceptable that during the affair some food business operators had informed production facilities that if they diluted the raw material sufficiently, they would not have any problems. “This is unacceptable; I expect them to be sanctioned accordingly.” The fact that the competent ministers learned about the affair from the media rather than through the official notification system was also considered unacceptable by Minister Židan. “We feel that in the case of dangerous contagious diseases in the EU, the system functions very rapidly, but in situations linked to food safety, there is no such speed.” The Minister thus believes that more work and cooperation must be invested in this field, which must also be upgraded. 

 

The Minister draw the attention of the participants to the importance of communicating with consumers. “If consumers press harder and seek the cheapest products, there will be more risk involved in producers finding ways to achieve even cheaper production, which may be risky for consumers.” Finally, the Minister emphasised that it had already been mentioned before the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy that funds would be withdrawn from the agricultural sector, while on the other hand, the challenges and requirements facing the sector are increasing regarding climate change. “If the sector of food production is not given sufficient resources, then we should not be surprised at the increasing number of food scandals in the future.” 

 

The purpose of the Conference was to discuss the follow-up and to take action regarding the fipronil insecticide, including the exchange of information and cases of good practice in managing EU systems for monitoring food and feed safety. Another purpose was to ensure more responsible and efficient responses in similar cases in the future. Slovenia, which was not greatly affected by the incident due to its high self-sufficiency in eggs (the sale of eggs from other EU Member States is very limited) advocates the transparency of all information referring to possible health risks posed to consumers and also warns that protecting consumers or their right to be informed must be placed before all other interests.