Egg Scandal: 15 EU Countries, Switzerland and Hong Kong Received Contaminated Eggs
According to the European Commission, 15 EU countries as well as Hong Kong and Switzerland have received eggs contaminated with the insecticide fipronil.
The commission will hold a meeting with ministers and regulators on September 26.
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 fipronil 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.
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 August 11.
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.
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The revelation that tainted eggs had also been sent to Hong Kong marks the first time the widening scandal has spread outside Europe.
Supermarkets in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany have also withdrawn millions of eggs from sale.
On August, 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 Center 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.
European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis said on August 11: “Blaming and shaming will bring us nowhere and I want to stop this.
“But first things first. Our common job and our priority now is to manage the situation, gather information, focus on the analysis and lessons to be learned in a view to improve our system and prevent criminal activity.”