In late July, a scandal involving eggs came to light in Europe, with headlines like;
“Egg Contamination Scare” and “Toxic Egg Scandal Grows” found in newspapers across the continent and around the world.
Millions of eggs have been pulled from supermarket shelves in more than a dozen European countries after it was discovered that some had been contaminated with the potentially harmful insecticide Fipronil. This situation has the potential to be the largest egg recall in history. Many potentially contaminated eggs were used in processed products, so the recall is extending to foods such as mayonnaise, ice cream and noodles.
Fipronil is typically used to treat fleas, lice and ticks on domestic pets such as cats and dogs, but is banned for use on animals used for food production. The World Health Organization considers Fipronil to be moderately toxic to people and it can damage organs if consumed in larger quantities. Tests have found levels higher than the recommended limit in contaminated eggs.
The insecticide apparently entered the food chain in the Netherlands, one of Europe’s biggest egg producers. A criminal investigation is now underway, centering on the pest control company that allegedly sold the product and a Dutch poultry farm cleaning company that used it.
Over 180 farms in the Netherlands were temporarily shut down while further tests were carried out.
Fipronil accumulates in the fat of chickens, so Dutch farmers caught up in the issue now face having to depopulate their flocks. The road to recovery for farmers in the Netherlands will be long, as market access can only be restored once there are no traces of Fipronil in their eggs.
Food suppliers are now working to certify their eggs as being fipronil-free, completing food safety testing to rebuild confidence in the egg supply chain.
Whenever crises like these take place around the world, it is important that we pay attention and learn what lessons we can.
- keep all chemicals stored safely away from your flock
- be certain that every product used in your barn, for cleaning or flock treatment, is suitable for laying hens in production. If you aren’t sure, contact your veterinarian to confirm that a product is suitable