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Tainted eggs scandal spreads to Britain, France

Brussels, Belgium | AFP | Britain and France said Monday that some insecticide-tainted eggs may have entered the country, as millions of chickens faced being culled in the Netherlands in a growing European contamination scandal.

Belgium meanwhile vowed full transparency about why it kept the scandal secret despite originally learning in June about the problem involving fipronil, a substance potentially dangerous to humans.

Supermarkets in Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium have pulled millions of eggs from the shelves since Belgium gave the European Commission the first notification on July 20, while retailers in Sweden and Switzerland have followed suit.

The European Commission said Monday that under its EU rapid alert system it had been determined that eggs under suspicion of contamination had also been distributed to France and Britain via Germany.

“It’s now up to the Swedish, Swiss, French and to the UK to check because all these eggs are traceable and trackable,” European Commission spokeswoman Anna-Kaisa Itkonen told reporters.

Britain’s Food Standards Agency said it was “urgently investigating the distribution of these eggs in the UK” from farms at the centre of the scare, while adding that “the number of eggs involved is very small and the risk to public health is very low”.

It did not give a number but said it represented 0.0001 percent of eggs annually imported into Britain.

“We are working closely with the businesses that have received eggs from affected farms. Investigations to date indicate that any affected products are no longer on the shelves,” it said.

The French government said thirteen batches of Dutch eggs contaminated with fipronil have been found at two food-processing factories in central-western France.

The agriculture ministry said they were unable to immediately say whether any of the products had been shipped to customers.

It is believed the toxic substance was introduced to poultry farms by a Dutch business named Chickfriend brought in to treat red lice, a parasite in chickens.

Dutch and Belgian media reports that the substance containing the insecticide was supplied to Chickfriend by a Belgian firm have not been confirmed.

Dutch farming organisation LTO said that several million hens may need to be culled at 150 companies in the country, with 300,000 having already been killed.

An LTO spokesman said they “had to be eliminated because of contamination”.

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