EGGS ARE IN short supply in Germany as the spotlight falls on Holland – where eggs have been found to contain traces of a dangerous insecticide. Aldi, a major supermarket in Germany, has removed all stocks of Dutch eggs from its stores.
The insecticide is Fipronil, which is used by egg producers to control lice and ticks in their chickens. Holland is Europe’s largest exporter of eggs – exporting nearly two thirds of the ten billion eggs it produces each year. Germany depends on Dutch eggs to satisfy domestic demand and it is estimated that some ten million infected eggs may have been sold in Germany already.
The crisis has also affected Belgium, where the food safety agency said that it had known about the contamination for a month but had not made concerns public in order not to jeopardise the criminal investigation in Holland.
Fipronil can harm the major organs of anyone who ingests it – particularly the kidneys, liver and thyroid gland – in sufficient quantity. Christian Meyer, the German Minister for Lower Saxony, speaking on German TV, said that children could ingest dangerous quantities of the chemical if they consume two eggs a day – which is more than most children are likely to eat on a regular basis.
Nearly 200 farms in Holland have been closed on a temporary basis while the authorities look into what is causing the problem, with the police investigating whether any criminal activity has taken place. Initial investigations have suggested that fipronil may have been added to detergent used to clean chicken sheds, with the residue building up and finding its way into eggs.
Aldi has 4,000 supermarkets in Germany and so far it is the only German retailer to stop selling Dutch eggs – a move which the company describes as precautionary. The UK division of Aldi pointed out that eggs sold in Aldi outlets in the UK are all sourced in the UK and are not affected by the insecticide problems in the UK. There are reports that some other outlets have removed Dutch eggs from sale.