The big European egg scandal

By Kalendra Withana,

Millions of eggs across Europe are suspected to have potential traces of the ‘moderately toxic’ insecticide, fipronil.


These eggs originate from The Netherlands, Europe’s largest egg producing country and one of the biggest exporters of egg products in the world. It has been reported that traces of fipronil have been discovered in bunches from a handful of Dutch farms.

In the UK, it has been confirmed that approximately 700,000 contaminated eggs have been sent to the nation. Beforehand, the speculated number of these eggs in the country had an original estimate of 21,000.

As a result of the growing number of concerns, UK supermarkets have begun the process of withdrawing egg-filled products from their shelves. On the subject of this matter, the Food Standards Agency said:

“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. The Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland are committed to ensuring that food is safe, and that UK consumers have food they can trust.”

As well as this, supermarkets in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands have also pulled millions of eggs from their sale.

Despite these initiatives, there has been speculation that the contaminated eggs have already reached the food chain through the selling of processed foods that use eggs. Furthermore, there have been concerns that due to some eggs having a short shelf life, people might have already consumed them.

Nevertheless, the Food Standards Agency state that it is “very unlikely” that the eggs have the potential to harm public health. This is because it is revealed that as a nation, the UK eats 34 million eggs every day, which is incomparable to 700,000.

Fipronil, commonly used to kill lice and ticks on animals, is strictly forbidden to be consumed in the food chain. It is warned that if eaten in large quantities, the insecticide has the potential to destruct the liver, kidneys and thyroid glands.

In terms of how long companies have known about these fipronil-ridden eggs, it has been recently revealed that Belgians officials knew about this information since June, but failed to disclose the matter to the public.

EU food safety commissioner, Vytenis Andriukaitis, has challenged the fights that have manifested between countries over the matter and has called for an end to the “blaming and shaming”.

In further response, Andriukaitis says that he intends to conduct an emergency summit regarding the contaminated eggs and this is anticipated to be held by the end of September. He issues in a statement:

"I proposed to hold a high-level meeting gathering the ministers concerned as well as the representatives of the food safety agencies in all member states involved as soon as we have all the facts available”.

It has furthermore been reported that two directors of the company that began the egg scare have been arrested by Dutch authorities on Thursday.

Sources – Sky News, BBC News, The Guardian. 

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