More Hongkongers avoiding European eggs, hitting sales amid scandal

Egg sellers in the city say sales affected despite assurances from officials that European eggs in the city are safe

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 August, 2017, 11:04pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 August, 2017, 11:09am

Sales of European eggs in Hong Kong have taken a hit amid an ongoing toxic poultry scandal, which has spread to 17 countries and regions.

Customers in the city are cautious about all eggs imported from the continent despite official assurances, after the European Commission revealed on Friday that insecticide-tainted eggs from Dutch farms had been found in 15 European Union states, Switzerland and Hong Kong.

European eggs, which make up about 20 per cent of Hong Kong’s supply, are usually popular among upper-middle class residents for their quality. But their appeal appears to have faded after the scandal, according to several egg sellers in the city.

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One such seller at the Java Road Market and Cooked Food Centre in North Point, Chan Chin, told the Post that sales of eggs from Spain, France and Poland had dropped by half since the news broke. It led to a 10 per cent decline in overall sales.

He said that customers did not dare to buy European eggs now, even though only those from Dutch farms were found to be problematic. “I probably have to reduce the stock of all European eggs, and sell more American and Thailand eggs instead,” Chan said.

Rebecca Tse So-han, general manager of marketing at Yata department store, said the sales of European eggs had been affected by the scandal, but the impact on overall business was limited.

“There are different types of eggs from different countries. People can find substitutes easily,” she said.

The scandal has also taken the city’s industry players by surprise, as European eggs have a good track record in terms of food safety, according to Chan Kin-yip, president of the Federation of Hong Kong Agricultural Associations.

Eggs stripped from supermarket shelves as paranoia spreads in Europe over contamination

“European eggs tend to be more expensive and tasty compared with Thailand eggs. The incident definitely hurts consumers’ confidence on European eggs,” Chan said.

Hong Kong food safety officials have also reassured the public that imported European eggs currently circulating in the market are safe, as the government had stepped up inspection efforts after two contaminated samples of Dutch eggs were found in the city more than a week ago.

“The Centre for Food Safety has been closely following up on the incident. Other than the Dutch eggs samples we announced before, we haven’t found any unqualified sample so far,” a spokesman said.

Secretary for Food and Health Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee said on Saturday the government had already increased surveillance efforts, including checking all the eggs from respective European countries, such as Belgium and the Netherlands, before they enter the market.

On August 4, the centre found two samples of Dutch eggs exceeded the local legal limit for Fipronil, a highly toxic pest control chemical banned from the production of food.

While the centre said moderate consumption would not lead to adverse health effects based on the level of pesticide residue detected in the samples, it immediately instructed importers to initiate a recall operation.