Major supermarkets across the country are urgently recalling millions of fresh salads, sandwiches and fillers after the Food Standards Agency revealed that around 700,000 eggs linked to a contamination scare on European farms have been sent to the U.K. and may have already been eaten by British consumers.
Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons are all recalling the egg-containing products, although the agency said that some of the recalled products will have already been consumed.
The FSA had previously said that just 21,000 contaminated eggs had come to the UK, but today revised its estimate upwards as the scandal over the use of harmful pesticide in the poultry industry grows.
The products affected in the UK are said to be processed foods that included eggs among other ingredients, mostly used in sandwich fillings or other similar chilled foods.
“While in some European countries eggs containing Fipronil residues have been sold as fresh eggs, in the UK this is not the case”, an agency statement said.
“Many of the eggs involved were mixed with other eggs which have not come from affected farms so Fipronil residues will be highly diluted.”
The FSA said investigations indicated it was “very unlikely” that the eggs posed a risk to public health but nonetheless said they were urgently investigating where they may have been sold.
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“As this represents 0.007% of the eggs we consume in the UK every year, it remains the case that it is very unlikely that there is any risk to public health from consuming these foods”, the statement said.
Fipronil is commonly used in veterinary products to get rid of fleas, lice and ticks. It’s banned by the EU from being used to treat animals destined for human consumption, but it’s believed that a disinfectant containing the pesticide was used on some chicken farms in Belgium and the Netherlands.
Millions of eggs have already been pulled from supermarket shelves in Europe as a result of the scare, while hundreds of thousands of hens may be culled in the Netherlands.
Authorities conducted raids at locations in both countries on Thursday as part of the investigation into the company that allegedly used the pesticide, as well as potential suppliers. Dutch police arrested two men.
The joint action comes a day after Belgium accused the Netherlands of knowing about the problem involving fipronil in eggs since November last year, but failing to inform them until July.