Tainted eggs scare: what we know

August 11, 2017

Europe and now Asia face a growing scandal over the contamination of millions of eggs with the insecticide fipronil, which can be potentially harmful to humans.

Here is what we know about a scare that has triggered criminal probes and led to eggs pulled from supermarkets in 15 EU countries, Switzerland and Hong Kong.

What is fipronil?

Fipronil is widely used to rid household pets like dogs and cats of fleas and is effective at treating poultry for the parasite red lice.

But it is banned by the European Union for treating animals destined for human consumption, including chickens.

The World Health Organization says fipronil is "moderately hazardous" in large quantities, with dangerous effects on people's kidneys, liver and thyroid glands.

What is the risk?

Authorities in the affected countries say there is no risk to public health.

EU rules say eggs with a level of fipronil above 0.005 mg per kg must be withdrawn from sale even though there is no significant health risk.

Fipronil levels above 0.72 mg per kg are a possible "acute" health risk and should not be eaten.

When did it start?

The problem is believed to stem from a substance used by Dutch company Chickfriend, which farmers in the Netherlands and Belgium say they hired to treat their chickens.

A lawyer for a Belgian company, Poultry-Vision, says the firm sold it to Chickfriend but has not said where it got the substance.

Belgium has accused the Netherlands of having detected contaminated eggs as far back as November 2016 but keeping it quiet. The Netherlands says it was tipped off about the use of Fipronil in pens but did not know it was in eggs.

Belgium meanwhile has admitted that it knew about fipronil in eggs in early June but kept it secret because of a fraud investigation.

Belgium became the first country to officially notify the EU's food safety alert system on July 20, followed by the Netherlands and Germany.

The news did not go public until August 1.

What countries are affected?

Fifteen EU countries have received tainted eggs: Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Sweden, Britain, Austria, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Denmark. Non-EU Switzerland and Hong Kong have too.

The were imported from four countries—Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and France. Farms in those countries where the banned substance was allegedly used to treat poultry have been shut down.

What is the official response?

The EU has called a meeting of ministers and chiefs from affected EU countries on September 26 and called for an end to "blaming and shaming".

Investigators in the Netherlands and Belgium staged raids on Thursday, arresting two people at Chickfriend. Belgium says the head of Poultry-Vision was held for questioning in July, then released under strict conditions.

The EU says any countries found not to have notified Brussels immediately about the detection of fipronil could face legal action.

Explore further: What we know about Europe's tainted eggs scandal

Related Stories

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.

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.

Two arrested as Europe egg scandal spreads

August 10, 2017
Dutch investigators arrested two suspects Thursday over Europe's widening tainted egg scandal, as Denmark announced that 20 contaminated tonnes had been sold there.

Belgium accuses Netherlands of tainted eggs cover-up

August 9, 2017
Belgium accused the Netherlands on Wednesday of failing to inform it that eggs were tainted with insecticide despite knowing about the problem since last November, as Europe's latest food safety scandal deepened.

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.

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.

Recommended for you

Mediterranean diet is linked to higher muscle mass, bone density after menopause

March 18, 2018
The heart-healthy Mediterranean diet also appears to be good for an older woman's bones and muscles, a new study of postmenopausal women in Brazil finds. The study results will be presented Monday at ENDO 2018, the Endocrine ...

Exposure to low levels of BPA during pregnancy can lead to altered brain development

March 17, 2018
New research in mice provides an explanation for how exposure to the widely used chemical bisphenol A (BPA) during pregnancy, even at levels lower than the regulated "safe" human exposure level, can lead to altered brain ...

Smoking linked with higher risk of type 2 diabetes

March 15, 2018
The prevalence of diabetes has increased almost 10-fold in China since the early 1980s, with one in 10 adults in China now affected by diabetes. Although adiposity is the major modifiable risk factor for diabetes, other research ...

Key drivers of high US healthcare spending identified

March 13, 2018
The major drivers of high healthcare costs in the U.S. appear to be higher prices for nearly everything—from physician and hospital services to diagnostic tests to pharmaceuticals—and administrative complexity.

Pedometer health boost lasts four years

March 13, 2018
Wearing a pedometer to count your daily steps can keep you healthier and more active for as long as four years after using it, a new study shows.

Toilet-to-tap: Gross to think about, but how does it taste?

March 13, 2018
Here's a blind test taste like Pepsi never imagined. Researchers at the University of California, Riverside, recently published a study of recycled wastewater that did not focus on its safety-which has long been established-but ...


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.