Eggs containing fipronil found in 15 EU countries and Hong Kong

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Fifteen EU countries as well as Hong Kong and Switzerland have received eggs contaminated with the insecticide fipronil, the European Commission says.

The commission will hold a meeting with ministers and regulators on 26 September.

Its food safety chief has called countries to stop “blaming and shaming” each other.

A row has erupted over how long Belgian and Dutch authorities have known about the contamination.

Eggs, coming mainly from the Netherlands, have been found to contain fipronil, a substance used to kill lice and ticks on animals that is banned by the EU for use in the food industry.

It is thought it was used to combat lice in some chicken farms, affecting the eggs of laying hens.

The insecticide can damage people’s kidneys, liver and thyroid glands if eaten in large quantities. However, food standards agencies are playing down the risks for anyone who has already eaten the tainted eggs.

Which countries are affected?

Farms were shut down in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and France after authorities confirmed that fipronil had been used, European Commission spokesman Daniel Rosario said on Friday.

The EU countries that have received the eggs are the UK, Sweden, Austria, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia and Denmark. Non-EU Switzerland is also affected.

Friday’s revelation that tainted eggs had also been sent to Hong Kong marks the first time the widening scandal has spread outside Europe.

What is being done about it?

The UK food watchdog also said about 700,000 eggs had been sent to the UK from potentially contaminated Dutch farms, up from an earlier estimate of 21,000.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said it was very unlikely that there was a risk to public health.

Processed foods containing eggs, including sandwiches and salads, have been recalled by leading supermarkets, including Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Waitrose and Asda.

Supermarkets in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany have also withdrawn millions of eggs from sale.

On Friday, France’s Agriculture Minister Stéphane Travert said about 250,000 affected eggs had been sold in the country since April, adding that all products containing eggs from contaminated farms would be taken off the shelves.

In Hong Kong, the government’s Centre for Food Safety says it identified two samples of imported Dutch eggs containing excessive levels of fipronil last week and asked shops to remove the products.

It has since tested other European egg imports and has not found any more “unsatisfactory samples”, the South China Morning Post newspaper quoted a spokeswoman as saying.

 

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