Illegal use of Fipronil

Just before the summer of 2017, an egg processing plant detected the presence of fipronil in eggs produced in a Belgian laying hen farm. What initially only seemed to be an isolated contamination (discovered in a single laying hen farm in June 2017), turned out to be a much more significant incident after a few weeks of intensive investigations by the Agency's anti-fraud unit. The investigation revealed that an antiparasitic, used as a cleaning product for stables, had been fraudulently "enriched" with fipronil (an added substance which was not stated on the label). This product was sold as a natural product containing only essential oils and was distributed by the fraudster to several  poultry farm cleaning businesses, which used it on a large scale in poultry farms (laying hens, rearing of laying hens) to control red mites (Dermanyssus gallinae).

Fipronil is a chemical substance that can be used as a plant protection product and as a veterinary drug for small pets (e.g. in flea collars) to control mites. However, fipronil is not authorized for use in farms keeping food-producing animals.

During this incident, the Agency followed its usual approach for dealing with contaminant-related issues in the food chain. This approach entails that the sources of the contamination are investigated thoroughly. Once the contamination sources have been identified, all establishments which have been in contact with these sources, and are thus potentially contaminated, are identified and blocked. Products already on the market are withdrawn and can no longer reach the consumer. If such products have already been sold and pose a risk to the health of consumers, a recall is organized and anyone who has purchased these products can return them to the point of sale.

In the context of this incident, based on the elements that were brought to light by the investigation, the contamination of meat, eggs and derived products turned out to have no impact on consumer health. Only one batch of eggs had to be recalled from the consumers after a health risk had been identified (long-term risk, i.e. based on a consumption over many years).


  • Eventually, 106 poultry farms with more than 200 poultry birds were blocked in Belgium.
    Each suspect farm was systematically blocked and only released after the eggs and/or meat had been tested with compliant results.
  • Farms where it was not possible to restart the production of compliant eggs within a reasonable period of time were given the possibility to cull their animals earlier than usual as of September 2017. 34 farms made use of this possibility. A total of 1.6 million laying hens and 300,000 farm animals were culled following this measure.
  • All non-compliant eggs were destroyed even though they did not pose any risk to the consumer. In Belgium alone, this amounted to more than 77 million eggs.

Following this incident, the Agency developed an action plan to improve its incident management approach, to increase checks on the use of antiparasitics in the meat production sector and to strengthen collaboration with other authorities.

In June 2018, the European Commission evaluated the FASFC's management and underlined the quality of the services provided by the Agency.

As a matter of fact, the FASFC audited all poultry farms in Belgium, which is a unique case in Europe, and took an active part in the development of a compensation scheme for the affected farms.

Analysis results



Number of samplings

Compliant samplings (%)

Incident follow-up: animal products

Sampling equipment




Eggs and egg products




Processed products




Poultry meat and poultry meat preparations



Incident follow-up: plant products




EU monitoring

Hatching eggs




Eggs and egg products




Poultry meat and poultry meat preparations







The section "Incident follow-up: animal products" presents the results of the analyses carried out on eggs, egg products and meat by the FASFC after the illegal use of fipronil was detected in laying hens.

During the investigation, the FASFC not only analyzed samples from suspect poultry farms but also carried out analyses in other egg production farms to get a full picture of the situation in the sector in Belgium.

Analyses were also carried out on processed products obtained from non-compliant or suspect raw materials.

The section "Incident follow-up: plant products" presents the results of the analyses carried out on samples of mushrooms and soil amendments as part of the follow-up of the fipronil incident.

The section "EU monitoring" presents the results of the monitoring coordinated at European level. This monitoring was set up in all Member States at the request of the European Commission, when it became clear that the illegal use of fipronil in laying hens concerned several Member States.
This monitoring was aimed at screening for residues of fipronil and 11 other important molecules identified by the European Commission.

The FASFC has chosen to screen for 15 molecules.

Last updated: 28/05/2019