UK estimates 700,000 eggs affected by European food scandal

UK estimates 700,000 eggs affected by European food scandal

Around 700,000 eggs imported into the UK have been contaminated by a banned toxic substance, according to Britain’s Food Standards Agency, far exceeding an initial estimate of 21,000 in an escalating scandal with origins in the Netherlands and Belgium.

The FSA said it was “very unlikely” the eggs posed a public health risk to British consumers, but it has asked businesses to withdraw products that would have been made with eggs contining banned insecticide Fipronil.

“The decision to withdraw these products is not due to food safety concerns, but is based on the fact that Fipronil is not authorised for use in food producing animals”, said the FSA.

Fipronil only poses a danger to human health if ingested in large quantities.

Knowledge of the contamination emerged earlier this month, when retailer Aldi pulling products off the shelves of its German supermarkets after Fipronil was detected in French, Belgian and Dutch poultry farms.

The scandal has sparked recriminations between European countries, with Belgium being accused of not acting fast enough to trigger an EU-wide alert system.

But Belgium’s agriculture minster has pointed the finger at neighbouring Dutch authorities for not informing officials sooner after the insecticide was traced back to a cleaning product in the Netherlands.

Belgium has an ignominious history with food scandals. A contamination crisis helped bring down the government in 1999 when carcinogenic substance dioxin entered the food chain through animal feed.

On Thursday, the European Commission said Brussels was following developments “very closely.”

“Now is the moment to act in a decisive, coordinated and transparent manner, not to engage in any kind of blame game” said a spokesman for the commission.

“Member states have the primary responsibility for conducting the investigations and taking appropriate measures”, he added.

Mehreen Khan & Jim Brunsden

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