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News Article

Fipronil scandal leads to removal of millions of eggs from European food stores

Massive recalls of eggs are underway in Germany, Netherlands and Belgium, as tests show high levels of insecticide fipronil. Fipronil is highly toxic and can damage the kidneys, liver and thyroid glands if consumed over long time.

Millions of eggs are being recalled from food stores and warehouses in Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium after some eggs were found to contain high levels of a toxic insecticide banned from use in the production of food for human consumption. The British Food Standards Agency has also reported today that a 'very small number' of contaminated eggs had been distributed in the UK but that the public health threat is 'very low'.

“The eggs are blocked. The contaminated eggs have been traced and withdrawn from the market and the situation is under control,” according to Anna-Kaisa Itkonen, European commission spokeswoman in Brussels.

Approximatelly 180 poultry farms in the Netherlands have been closed and a criminal investigation has been launched as authorities try to establish the scale of the problem.

High levels of the insecticide fipronil, a common ingredient in veterinary products for treating fleas, lice and ticks, which is banned for use in animals destined for human consumption are found in chicken faeces, blood and eggs. It is suspected that fipronil was mixed with an insecticide used legally in chickens to improve its effectiveness.

According to media reports, Belgian prosecutors are examining the client list of two companies in Flanders specialising in the production and supply of anti-lice agents to Dutch and Belgian farms, among others. One of the companies may have had clients in the UK, France and Poland, according to the Dutch newspaper Trouw.

According to the Dutch daily newspaper de Volkskrant, the illegal mix had been used on farms in the Netherlands for more than a year. The Dutch food and product safety board, the NVWA, told the newspaper it was unclear whether contaminated eggs had been sold to customers over that period. The NVWA has warned consumers that one batch of eggs had such elevated levels of fipronil that their consumption would present a serious public health risk. They advised that eggs from at least 27 other farms should not be eaten by children.

The extent of the scandal has since grown. “We are still estimating the number of farms which have been affected, and the analysis of 600 samples is still ongoing,” a spokesman for the NVWA was quoted as saying.

It has been reported that 2.9m eggs from companies believed to have used the fipronil anti-lice agent were delivered to Germany before 22 July, when exports were blocked, although many of them remained in packing stations. The German agriculture minister, Christian Schmidt, called a crisis teleconference with his counterparts in German states where the insecticide had been detected.

The Netherlands has almost 1,000 laying-hen factory farms producing 11bn eggs a year, of which more than half are exported, mainly to Germany.

The Dutch food and product safety board has been criticised for its handling of the scandal. At first officials said there was no danger to human health, before issuing a warning about certain batches of eggs. Its deputy director was subsequently reported as saying that consumers should avoid eggs altogether until tests for a banned pesticide had been completed.

Article details

  • Author(s)
  • M Djuric, DVM
  • Date
  • 07 August 2017
  • Source
  • Agencies; European Commission
  • Subject(s)
  • Food safety