Paris, France | AFP | European consumers complained of being “left in the lurch” by food safety authorities as a scandal over insecticide-tainted eggs snowballed Friday, but said they have no intention of removing eggs from their shopping lists completely.
Eggs contaminated with an insecticide called fipronil — which can be harmful to humans — have now been found in 15 EU countries, as well as in Hong Kong and Switzerland, the European Commission said on Friday.
Fipronil is commonly used to get rid of fleas, lice and ticks from animals but is banned by the EU from use in the food industry. It can harm people’s kidneys, liver and thyroid glands.
While officials engaged in finger-pointing and mutual recriminations, consumer protection groups said it is clear who is to blame.
“Every single actor has committed serious mistakes,” said Daniel Sarmadi of Foodwatch in Germany.
“The Netherlands and Belgium, as well as the German regional governments, have only informed the public in a limited way, that was obvious from the first days of the scandal. From a consumer’s point of view, we’ve been left in the lurch,” Sarmadi said.
Foodwatch had been saying for a long time that the food sector was especially vulnerable to fraud,” Sarmadi said.
“In this case, like others in the past, nothing was noticed for a long time, or at least the information didn’t get through to the public.”
– ‘Blaming and shaming’ –
But Vytenis Andriukaitis, the European Commissioner for health and food safety, said that “blaming and shaming will bring us nowhere.”
“We need to work together to draw the necessary lessons and move forward instead of losing energy on finger pointing,” he told AFP.
For their part, European consumers, perhaps hardened by a string of food safety scares in recent years, appear to be mostly phlegmatic about the latest scandal, even if they insist they will exercise greater caution in the supermarket.
“We don’t eat many eggs in my family, but we’ve been especially careful about which products might contain them recently. I won’t be buying any mayonnaise until we’ve got the all clear,” said one German shopper, Hans Grofferbert, a federal unemployment agency worker.
Jacky Kur, a supermarket customer in London, said the news reports he had read “said there was no risk to human health, so I still buy eggs. And almost everything you buy now has eggs in, so I won’t pay attention.”