A shot of six eggs in a tray
THE HAGUE - Europe's contaminated egg scare has cost Dutch poultry farmers at least 33 million euros ($39-million), according to a preliminary estimate by the government.
The scare, triggered by the presence of the insecticide fipronil in eggs, has spread to 18 European countries and even reached as far away as Hong Kong.
"Direct costs to the (Dutch) poultry sector where fipronil was used are estimated at 33 million euros," Health Minister Edith Schippers and deputy economy minister Martijn van Dam said in a letter to parliament.
"Of this, 16 million euros is as a result of the subsequent ban while 17 million euros derives from measures to rid farms of fipronil contamination," the ministers said.
Poultry farms on average suffered initial damages of between 120,000 euros to 200,000 euros, the ministers said.
Their findings are based on an investigation by Wageningen University's Economic Research Unit.
The estimate does not include non-farmers in the poultry sector, nor does it take into account further losses in production by farms.
Wednesday's letter also said investigators from the Dutch Food and Goods watchdog found that Chickfriend, the company which allegedly cleaned chicken pens with fipronil, used a second toxic substance called amitraz.
The insecticide, a mildly toxic chemical used to kill flies, was found to have been used on a single cattle farm, and was not used in the poultry sector, the letter stressed.
Two owners of Chickfriend briefly appeared in court in connection with the case last week and remain in custody.
Lawmakers are due to debate the fall-out from the crisis on Thursday.
Earlier this month, a Dutch farming federation estimated total damages at at least 150 million euros.
Commonly used to get rid of fleas, lice and ticks from animals, fipronil is banned by the European Union from use in the food industry.
The issue has sparked a row between Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, the three countries at the centre of the crisis, about how long officials knew about the problem.