UK to test eggs for contamination

British authorities are to begin testing eggs for any traces of a banned insecticide which has caused a food scare in the Netherlands.

UK to test eggs for contamination

Defra, the UK’s agriculture ministry, said it will test eggs for the Dega-16 red mite treatment, the product which has been contaminated with fipronil.

However, Defra also says there is no evidence of the insecticide being used in Britain, nor any evidence that the substance has contaminated any eggs in Britain.

Millions of hens may still need to be culled in the Netherlands. However, LTO, the Dutch federation of agriculture and horticulture, also said consumers were no longer at risk. Fipronil is an insecticide used to combat insects such as fleas, lice, ticks, cockroaches and mites. It is not permitted for use on livestock.

Supermarkets throughout Europe have recalled millions of eggs, while Aldi in Germany withdrew all eggs from its shelves. In France, a poultry farm in the northern department of Pas de Calais was placed under surveillance after a farmer reported a supplier’s use of fipronil.

Dutch and Belgian authorities have pinned the source of the insecticide to a Dutch cleaning products supplier. Some 57 Belgian poultry firms have been blocked from supermarkets.

“For consumers this is pretty much over, but that is not the case for the farmers. It will take weeks if not months before they can resume production,” LTO’s Johan Boonen explained to Reuters news agency.

The World Health Organisation considers fipronil to be moderately toxic and says very large quantities can cause organ damage.

The contaminated eggs health scare follows a bird flu epidemic that swept northern Europe late last year — when poultry farmers were also forced to cull flocks.

Germany’s agriculture minister, Christian Schmidt, said that the contamination of millions of eggs with a potentially harmful insecticide was “criminal”.

“It is criminal, that is very clear,” Mr Schmidt told the German television station ARD on Tuesday. He gave no further details.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland said it is aware traces of fipronil have been found in eggs in other EU countries, but said there is no indication of distribution of the implicated products to the Republic of Ireland.

One batch of the eggs tested, in particular, posed “an acute danger to public health”, said the FSAI.

The food safety agency said that it will continue to follow this issue.

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