The Soil Association has urged the Government to ban the use of a drug used in chicken feed, pending further tests on its health effects.
The group, which regulates and campaigns for organic food and farming, claims that each day Britons eat about 750,000 eggs containing the drug lasalocid, which is mixed into chicken feed to prevent the intestinal disease coccidiosis.
Tests by the Government's Veterinary Medicines Directorate found traces of the drug in 2.6 per cent of samples of eggs and poultry and 60 per cent of quail eggs.
Mark Luetchford, the Soil Association's campaign manager, said: "Even low levels of lasalocid are dangerous to mammals and this raises concerns about how toxic the drug is to humans.
"We know that this drug hangs about in the body, so we could be accumulating it every time we eat eggs or chicken." He claimed the Government's testing programme was "wholly inadequate" because it sampled one in 18 million eggs.
In intensive poultry farming, daily doses of lasalocid are given to chickens and turkeys in their feed as a preventive treatment against coccidiosis, an infectious disease caused by a parasite which damages the birds' intestines and can be fatal. Outbreaks of coccidiosis are most likely to occur when large numbers of birds are crowded together in warm and moist conditions.
Tests carried out on rabbits have shown that the drug can cause abnormal heart contractions and tests on the human heart in 1974 showed rapid contractions.
The Soil Association said lasalocid was not used by the organisation's licensed farmers.Reuse content