Tainted egg scandal spreads to the UK

8 August 2017

Eggs from European farms at the centre of a contamination scare entered UK shops earlier this year, according to the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA). 

Approximately 21,000 eggs were imported to the UK from the contanimated farms between March and June, said the FSA, but would not specify which stores in the UK or in which part of the country it believed that the potentially contaminated eggs may have been distributed. 

However, the FSA insisted the risk to public health was very low and that investigations to date indicated that any affect products were expired and no longer on the shelves.

“We are working closely with the businesses that have received eggs from affect farms and investigations to date indicated that any affected products are no longer on the shelves,” it said.

UK produced eggs are not affected, it said. “The government has already taken action to prevent any risk to UK consumers by adding Fipronil to its robust surveillance programme in UK farms and we have no evidence that eggs laid in the UK are contaminated or that Fipronil has been used inappropriately in the UK.”

Last week, SM reported that millions of eggs were recalled from shops and warehouses in Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium after they were found to contain an insecticide Fipronil, which is used in veterinary products.

Fipronil can treat lice and ticks in chickens but should not be used on food-producing animals because of its toxicity, which can harm kidneys, liver and thyroid glands in humans, according to the World Health Organisation.

In the past week, millions of eggs have been pulled from shelves in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland. 

Johan Boonen, spokesman for Dutch farming industry group LTO, warned that although some 300,000 hens had already been culled in the Netherlands, millions more would need to be culled to eradicate traces of the insecticide from production.

“For consumers this is pretty much over, but that is not the case for the farmers,” he said. 

“It’ll take weeks if not months before they can resume production.”

It emerged over the weekend that Belgian authorities knew in early June that the eggs from a Dutch farm might have been contaminated—a month before it became public knowledge. 

Belgian officials said they had kept the problem secret and failed to trigger the EU’s international food safety alert system because of a fraud probe. 

Belgium’s agriculture minister Denis Ducarme said he had ordered the country's food safety agency to make clear why it failed to notify neighbouring countries until 20 July.

A criminal investigation is under way. 

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