A “very small number” of European eggs that may be contaminated with a potentially harmful pesticide have entered the UK, the Food Standards Agency said on Monday.
The watchdog said the threat to public health was “very low” and that the number of eggs involved represents about 0.0001 per cent of the eggs imported into the UK each year.
Last week, Aldi and Lidl stores in Germany pulled millions of eggs from shelves amid fears they are tainted with traces of the pesticide Fipronil. Aldi said the measure was “purely precautionary” and pointed out that eggs sold in its UK stores are British.
The scare started in Belgium and the Netherlands. Belgium’s food safety agency is investigating how Fipronil might have entered eggs destined for supermarkets and dozens of farms in the Netherlands are now being checked for Fipronil contamination. There is no evidence that eggs produced in the UK have been affected.
The World Health Organisation considers Fipronil to be moderately toxic and says the insecticide can damage the kidneys, liver and lymph glands, while also causing symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and eye irritation if absorbed into the skin. It is used to kill fleas, lice and ticks and is not allowed to be used on animals intended for human consumption under EU rules.
In a statement on its website, the FSA 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.
“We have no evidence that eggs laid in the UK are contaminated or that Fipronil has been used inappropriately in the UK. Eighty-five per cent of the eggs we consume in the UK are laid here.
It added: “Our risk assessment, based on all the information available, indicates that as part of a normal healthy diet this low level of potential exposure is unlikely to be a risk to public health and there is no need for consumers to be concerned. Our advice is that there is no need for people to change the way they consume or cook eggs or products containing eggs.”
On Sunday, it emerged that Belgian authorities knew in June that eggs from a Dutch farm might have been contaminated – a month before it became public knowledge.
“We knew since early June there was potentially a problem with Fipronil in the poultry sector,” Belgium’s food safety agency’s spokeswoman, Katrien Stragier, told the BBC. “We immediately launched an investigation and we also informed the prosecutor because it was a matter of possible fraud.”
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