Consumers 'left in lurch' over Europe egg scandal

August 11, 2017
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

European consumers complained of being "left in the lurch" by food safety authorities as a scandal over insecticide-tainted eggs snowballed Friday, but said they have no intention of removing eggs from their shopping lists completely.

Eggs contaminated with an insecticide called fipronil—which can be harmful to humans—have now been found in 15 EU countries, as well as in Hong Kong and Switzerland, the European Commission said on Friday.

Fipronil is commonly used to get rid of fleas, lice and ticks from animals but is banned by the EU from use in the food industry. It can harm people's kidneys, liver and thyroid glands.

While officials engaged in finger-pointing and mutual recriminations, consumer protection groups said it is clear who is to blame.

"Every single actor has committed serious mistakes," said Daniel Sarmadi of Foodwatch in Germany.

"The Netherlands and Belgium, as well as the German regional governments, have only informed the public in a limited way, that was obvious from the first days of the . From a consumer's point of view, we've been left in the lurch," Sarmadi said.

Foodwatch had been saying for a long time that the food sector was especially vulnerable to fraud," Sarmadi said.

"In this case, like others in the past, nothing was noticed for a long time, or at least the information didn't get through to the public."

'Blaming and shaming'

But Vytenis Andriukaitis, the European Commissioner for health and , said that "blaming and shaming will bring us nowhere."

"We need to work together to draw the necessary lessons and move forward instead of losing energy on finger pointing," he told AFP.

For their part, European consumers, perhaps hardened by a string of food safety scares in recent years, appear to be mostly phlegmatic about the latest scandal, even if they insist they will exercise greater caution in the supermarket.

"We don't eat many in my family, but we've been especially careful about which products might contain them recently. I won't be buying any mayonnaise until we've got the all clear," said one German shopper, Hans Grofferbert, a federal unemployment agency worker.

Jacky Kur, a supermarket customer in London, said the news reports he had read "said there was no risk to human health, so I still buy eggs. And almost everything you buy now has eggs in, so I won't pay attention."

In the Netherlands, Else Steenbergen, 28, also told AFP that she was not scared.

"It's in a number of different products and if you have to avoid everything that contains eggs, I don't know what's left."

'Nothing you can do'

A great deal of customers said they would simply buy their eggs from "safer" sources.

I buy organic eggs, and I think organic eggs weren't affected, these were only imported eggs," said Gosia Mieczkowska in London.

"I always check whether the stuff is imported or not. So I don't feel particularly concerned, to be honest. There is nothing you can do really."

While millions of eggs have been pulled off supermarket shelves all across Europe, retail chains say it's too early to gauge what effect the scandal will have on sales.

"We don't have numbers. But with every food scare, you always see some degree of reticence on the part of consumers," said Axel Haentjes of BVLH, a federation of the biggest German food retailers including REWE, Edeka, Aldi and Lidl.

"There's always a little dip in the sales" of the product concerned, he said, but the situation would return to normal "quickly".

Barbara Pfenniger, of the Romande Consumer Federation, or FRC, in Switzerland, said she had received a number of enquiries from concerned consumers.

"Even though the majority of eggs bought by Swiss consumers are Swiss produced and therefore not affected, the scandal highlights the risks of fraud with foodstuffs of animal origin," she said.

Limited hit

In France, the discounter Lidl has seen sales of battery eggs fall by around two percent, but that drop was being made up for by sales of eggs from other sources.

"In free-range or organic, there's been no drop. On the contrary, stocks have been sold out in some shops," said Michel Biero of Lidl France.

Customers had already been switching away from battery eggs prior to this scandal, he said.

"This will only amplify the trend."

burs-spm/rl

Explore further: 20 tonnes of contaminated eggs sold in Denmark: food authority

Related Stories

20 tonnes of contaminated eggs sold in Denmark: food authority

August 10, 2017
Twenty tonnes of fipronil-contaminated eggs have been sold in Denmark, the country's Veterinary and Food Administration said on Thursday.

250,000 contaminated eggs sold in France since April: minister

August 11, 2017
Nearly 250,000 insecticide-contaminated eggs have been sold in France since April, but the risk for consumers is "very low," French Agriculture Minister Stephane Travert said Friday.

Hong Kong, Switzerland, 15 EU states hit by egg scandal: EU

August 11, 2017
Insecticide-tainted eggs from European poultry farms have now been found in Hong Kong and Switzerland as well as 15 EU countries, the European Commission said Friday.

Slovakia finds tainted Dutch eggs imported from Germany

August 10, 2017
Slovak authorities said Thursday they had discovered a batch of insecticide-tainted eggs imported from The Netherlands via Germany as the scandal spread to Romania and Denmark.

Luxembourg hit by tainted eggs scare

August 10, 2017
Luxembourg became the latest European country hit by a scare over tainted eggs, with a major supermarket chain pulling them from the shelves and other firms affected, authorities said Thursday.

What we know about Europe's tainted eggs scandal

August 8, 2017
Several European countries face a growing scare over millions of eggs that have been contaminated with the insecticide fipronil, which is potentially harmful to humans.

Recommended for you

Motorcycle crashes cause five times as many deaths as car accidents, six times the health costs

November 20, 2017
Motorcycle accidents are costly in terms of lives and health care costs. Compared with car accidents, motorcycle accidents cause 3 times the injuries, 6 times the medical costs and 5 times the deaths, found new research in ...

New shoe makes running 4 percent easier, 2-hour marathon possible, study shows

November 17, 2017
Eleven days after Boulder-born Shalane Flanagan won the New York City Marathon in new state-of-the-art racing flats known as "4%s," University of Colorado Boulder researchers have published the study that inspired the shoes' ...

Vaping while pregnant could cause craniofacial birth defects, study shows

November 16, 2017
Using e-cigarettes during pregnancy could cause birth defects of the oral cavity and face, according to a recent Virginia Commonwealth University study.

Study: For older women, every movement matters

November 16, 2017
Folding your laundry or doing the dishes might not be the most enjoyable parts of your day. But simple activities like these may help prolong your life, according to the findings of a new study in older women led by the University ...

When vegetables are closer in price to chips, people eat healthier, study finds

November 16, 2017
When healthier food, like vegetables and dairy products, is pricier compared to unhealthy items, like salty snacks and sugary sweets, Americans are significantly less likely to have a high-quality diet, a new Drexel University ...

Children's exposure to secondhand smoke may be vastly underestimated by parents

November 15, 2017
Four out of 10 children in the US are exposed to secondhand smoke, according to the American Heart Association. A new Tel Aviv University study suggests that parents who smoke mistakenly rely on their own physical senses ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.