Ger­man su­per­mar­ket chain yanks eggs off its shelves amid pes­ti­cide scare

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - BUSINESS - BY MIKE CORDER

A ma­jor su­per­mar­ket chain said Fri­day it is re­mov­ing all eggs from sale in its Ger­man stores amid a scare over pos­si­ble pes­ti­cide con­tam­i­na­tion that Dutch pro­duc­ers fear will cost them mil­lions of eu­ros in lost in­come.

Aldi said the move was a “purely pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure” and there’s be­lieved to be no health risk. It said that, ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ately, it will only ac­cept eggs that have tested neg­a­tive for the pes­ti­cide Fipronil.

The scare, which orig­i­nated in the Nether­lands and Bel­gium, has drawn grow­ing at­ten­tion in neigh­bour­ing Ger­many. Ger­many’s agri­cul­ture min­is­ter and the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion both have said the sit­u­a­tion is un­der con­trol.

Aldi and ri­val Lidl had al­ready taken eggs from farms un­der sus­pi­cion of Fipronil con­tam­i­na­tion off the shelves.

Two other Ger­man su­per­mar­ket chains, Rewe and Penny, have stopped sell­ing all Dutch eggs.

The Ger­man Farm­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion de­scribed Aldi’s de­ci­sion to take eggs off the shelf as “an ex­ces­sive re­ac­tion at this point in time.” It said that the Dutch dis­in­fec­tant that is at fault was used in rel­a­tively few Ger­man farms, and they were closed and checked at the end of July.

The Dutch gov­ern­ment’s health in­sti­tute, cit­ing the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion and Euro­pean food safety author­ity, says that in the few known cases of Fipronil poi­son­ing in hu­mans - mostly de­lib­er­ate over­doses - the in­sec­ti­cide can lead to nau­sea, vom­it­ing, dizzi­ness and epilep­tic fits.

Dozens of farms are be­ing checked in the Nether­lands, and Bel­gium’s food safety agency is prob­ing how Fipronil might have en­tered eggs des­tined for su­per­mar­kets. Fipronil is banned in prod­ucts for treat­ing an­i­mals like chick­ens that are part of the hu­man food chain.

The Nether­lands ex­ports some 5 bil­lion eggs to neigh­bour­ing Ger­many each year, said Hen­nie de Haan, chair­woman of the Dutch union of poul­try farm­ers.

“We hope that Ger­man con­sumers will start trust­ing and eat­ing our eggs again, oth­er­wise this dis­as­ter will be im­mea­sur­able,” De Haan said in a tele­phone in­ter­view.

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