The Aldi supermarket chain is pulling all eggs from its shelves in Germany over fears of insecticide contamination.
The egg crisis is believed to have originated in Belgium in June and was then detected in the Netherlands, according to The Associated Press. Millions of eggs have been recalled in those countries. Authorities are concerned about the presence of Fipronil, which kills things like mites and is banned from use with animals used to produce food for humans.
Other European supermarkets have pulled eggs from batches known to be contaminated. Aldi “is the first retailer to stop selling all eggs as a precaution,” the BBC reported.
“This is merely a precaution, there is no reason to assume there are any health risks,” Aldi North and Aldi South, the two operators of the major supermarket chain in Germany, said in statement quoted by Reuters.
It appears that Fipronil “got mixed with ‘Dega 16,’ a cleaning agent and sanitizer used on many poultry farms,” according to Deutsche Welle. “The cleaning agent has not only been used for pest control in the Netherlands, but also in the German state of Lower Saxony, where eggs are now being thoroughly examined to see if they contain traces of Fipronil.”
It’s not yet clear when and where Fipronil was added to the cleaning agent, and who is responsible, though news reports suggest the illegal substance may have been aimed at improving the effectiveness of the Dega 16.
Citing the European Commission, Reuters reports that “public prosecutors in Belgium and the Netherlands are investigating poultry service providers that are suspected of having added Dega 16 to their products.”
The Netherlands is Europe’s top exporter of eggs, according to the BBC, and there are growing concerns about what this contamination will mean for the industry.
“We hope that German consumers will start trusting and eating our eggs again, otherwise this disaster will be immeasurable,” Hennie de Haan, chairwoman of the Dutch union of poultry farmers, told the AP. “We hope we can win back the trust of German consumers very quickly because we carry out more tests than probably anywhere else in the world so we actually have very safe eggs.”
Fipronil has the potential to damage the liver, thyroid glands and kidneys. According to Poultry World, it is “most commonly used to treat tics, mite and lice on companion animals, such as dogs or cats.”
Deutsche Welle lays out what German authorities are saying about the dangers of Fipronil:
“With current Fipronil levels, Germany’s Federal Institute for Risk Assessment estimates that a child who weighs around 16 kilograms (35 pounds) could eat 1.7 eggs per day without reaching the threshold where Fipronil levels become dangerous. This includes products that contain egg, like pancakes or pasta. An adult who weights 65 kilograms could eat seven eggs a day.
“The levels currently measured in contaminated eggs aren’t very high and thus not dangerous for adults, however authorities and experts have advised parents to not let their children eat contaminated eggs.”