Europe eggs scandal hits Hong Kong after unsafe level of insecticide confirmed

Local watchdog finds presence of highly toxic pest control chemical Fipronil and urges poultry industry to immediately pull named product

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 August, 2017, 8:39pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 August, 2017, 11:41am

Samples of eggs on sale in Hong Kong have been found to be tainted with unsafe levels of insecticide as a ­contamination that began in the Netherlands continues to spread.

The Centre for Food Safety revealed on Friday that two samples of Dutch eggs exceeded the local legal limit for Fipronil, a highly toxic pest control chemical banned from the production of food.

The tested samples showing unsafe levels of ­Fipronil are sold under the product name Cheer Fresh Dutch Brown Eggs.

Dutch farms confirmed to have insecticide- ­tainted eggs were known to have shipped products to Hong Kong, the European Commission said.

However, the centre said that no eggs originally found by the commission as not fit for human consumption were imported into Hong Kong.

That would indicate the two samples tested by the local food safety watchdog were a new batch of ­affected eggs from the Netherlands.

The centre said in its statement: “Members of the public who have bought [affect eggs] should not ­consume them.”

It added that the poultry industry should “also stop using or selling the affected batch of the product immediately should they possess it”.

Local authorities have not issued instructions for an across-the-board withdrawal of eggs from the market.

But the centre noted official testing of eggs from the affected European countries had been stepped up.

The toxic poultry scandal started on August 1, with Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands recalling millions of eggs amid the scare.

Other affected EU countries are France, Sweden, Britain, Austria, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Denmark, commission spokesman Daniel Rosario said, as well as non-EU member Switzerland.

Dutch, Belgians launch raids as Europe’s contaminated eggs scandal grows

The consumption of eggs tainted with Fipronil, often used to kill lice and fleas, poses low risks to ­public health, according to the World Health ­Organisation.

But the WHO said that, when digested in large quantities, the chemical could cause harm to the ­kidneys, liver and thyroid glands.

When the food scare began in Europe, the centre claimed, it inspected major retailers in the city.

Food safety scandal erupts in Europe over eggs contaminated with insecticide

“The centre has taken preventative measures, ­including stepping up inspection of imported eggs from the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium,” she added.

Speaking before the centre’s revelation on Friday, Anca Paduraru, a commission spokeswoman on public health and food safety, said: “What we know is that eggs were transported from this contaminated farm to Hong Kong. We don’t know if they were placed in the market [for sale or production], or if the eggs were contaminated. We don’t know yet if there is an impact on Hong Kong.”

Local supermarket chain ParknShop said it was “very concerned” and pledged to “closely communicate” with the centre and “follow its instruction”.

There can be no compromise on food safety

Its competitor, Wellcome, went further and claimed its customers could obtain a refund on the purchase of eggs from Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

“Food safety is Wellcome’s first priority. We are very concerned about the issue and maintain close contact with the Centre for Food Safety in order to take prompt action accordingly,” a company ­spokesman said.

“Customers can bring the product along with the receipt to the store for either a merchandise ­exchange or refund when they have queries about the products purchased,” he added.

Additional reporting by Peace Chiu and AFP