Fipronil found in locally-sold eggs, authorities advise against having more than two eggs a day
The Superintendent of Public Health has warned people to consume no more than two eggs a day after traces of Fipronil were found in imported and local eggs being sold in Malta.
The government said in a statement that German laboratories had found the insecticide in eight of 20 samples of imported eggs sent for in for testing by the Directorate for Environmental Health.
The Directorate said in a statement yesterday evening that while any use of Fipronil is prohibited, the amounts found in the eggs on local shelves were very low.
But, as a precaution, it advised against consuming more than two eggs a day until further notice.
The Commission for Food Security, the Directorate of Veterinary Services and the Directorate for Environmental Health has already taken steps to stop the sale of contaminated eggs and to conduct further testing.
Experts say the risk of getting sick from eating an egg tainted with insecticide is low. But that hasn’t stopped stores across Europe, and now Malta, from stripping them from supermarket shelves, or prevented European food safety agencies from issuing warnings.
The illegal use of the insecticide Fipronil in spray to rid hens of ticks, fleas and lice was exposed earlier this month and fears about the safety of the everyday food staple.
Fipronil is also commonly used by veterinarians to treat fleas and ticks in pets, but is banned by the European Union for treating animals like chickens that are part of the human food chain.
The EU said contaminated eggs have been found at producers in Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands. It is believed the Fipronil got into the food chain when it was illegally added to a product used to spray poultry.
The impact for egg producers has been staggering.
Almost all lab tests in Europe show that only very low levels of Fipronil — seven to 10 times lower than the maximum permitted — have been detected in eggs from the treated chickens, although one test in Belgium was above the European limit. Poisoning by small doses has few effects and requires little treatment. Heavy and prolonged exposure can damage the kidneys and liver or cause seizures.
Last week a former Dutch justice minister was appointed to lead an investigation into the illegal use of a pesticide on laying hens, which sparked a food scare in Europe and beyond and led to the destruction of millions of eggs.
According to a governmentcommissioned report, the estimated direct economic cost of the scandal to affected Dutch egg farmers was around €33 million, due to sales bans and measures to clean up contaminated farms.
The true cost is likely much higher. The report did not gauge the economic impact of indirect consequences such as the damaged reputations of farmers whose eggs were found to be tainted with the pesticide Fipronil and those with unaffected farms.
Some supermarkets in Germany — the biggest export market for eggs from the Netherlands — banned all Dutch eggs, not just those from affected farms.
The report said that, in total, 664 laying stalls at 258 farms were banned from selling eggs. Some of those affected have since been cleared to resume sales.
The scandal started when Fipronil was found to have been illegally mixed into an insect spray used to treat lice on chickens.
Former Dutch Justice Minister Winnie Sorgdrager will now lead an investigation into what happened.
“The investigation must show what happened and what can be improved so that lessons can be learned,” the government said in a statement.
A criminal investigation and a probe by the independent Dutch Safety Board are already underway
In Italy, police said last week that they have confiscated 92,000 eggs and 26,000 hens after finding four eggs contaminated with Fipronil.
Health inspectors of the Carabinieri police said the confiscations came during recent inspections in Ancona and Viterbo. Some 253 inspections have so far been carried out in Italy.