Contaminated egg scandal ‘likely to intensify’

The contaminated egg scandal is likely to intensify, claims Professor Chris Elliott

The contaminated egg scandal, which resulted in at least 700,000 eggs tainted with the insecticide fipronil being imported into the UK, is likely to intensify, claims Professor Chris Elliott.

Elliott, chair of food safety at the Queen’s University Belfast, said the scandal was escalating in scale and would cross many more European countries before it was over.

“I predict more revelations are still to come,” said Elliott. “It has the potential to be the largest recall of eggs in history.

The misuse of the compound in question seems to have been very well organised, widely orchestrated and has been going on for quite a period of time. There is a growing impact in the UK despite no evidence of any wrong doing in the UK poultry industry.”

There was no evidence that the contaminated eggs would affect human health in any way, said the professor, who produced two influential reports in the wake of the horsemeat crisis.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) told FoodManufacture.co.uk last week that no contaminated eggs had entered the UK, before raising the estimate to 21,000 eggs on Monday (August 7) and 700,000 yesterday (August 10).

Supplying the contaminated eggs

The organisation is currently investigating whether any chicken or chicken meat from the farms implicated for supplying the contaminated eggs had been distributed in the UK.

So far it has found no evidence that suggests chicken meat from affected farms poses a public health risk, dismissing fears that the insecticide had spread to chicken meat.

“We are not aware of any concerns over chicken meat that has come to the UK so far,” said the FSA.

The British Poultry Council also confirmed there was no evidence suggesting Dutch chicken meat had been contaminated.

The UK’s major supermarkets have come under fire from British egg processors following the news, after some recalled products containing non-UK eggs potentially contaminated with fipronil.

British Lion Egg Processors criticised retailers for operating “double standards” when it came to eggs – stocking British Lion shell eggs, but using imported eggs in many of their prepared foods.

Chairman Ian Jones said: “This is just the latest of a number of food safety issues connected to eggs produced outside of the UK in recent years.

‘Latest of a number of food safety issues’

“Consumers clearly want retailers and food manufacturers to use good quality British ingredients that are produced to high standards of food safety, but in some prepared foods this is not the case.”

Business consultancy Stericycle Expert solutions supported the actions taken to recall the potentially contaminated products.

European vice president Farzad Henareh told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “Consumer safety remains paramount in the food market and, although this recall is concerning for the distributers involved, we support the relevant regulatory food agencies and manufacturers taking a proactive approach to this recall.”

Farmers in the EU are banned from using the fipronil on animals intended for human consumption. When ingested by humans, it can cause nausea, vomiting, headaches, dizziness and seizures.

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