17 nations get tainted eggs, products in growing scandal

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About 700,000 eggs from the farms affected by the insecticide are thought to have been sent to the United Kingdom - far more than the 21,000 first estimated.

Processed foods containing eggs, including sandwiches and salads, were recalled by leading supermarkets, including Sainsbury's, Morrisons, Waitrose and Asda.

The agency has stressed that the recall is precautionary and that it is "very unlikely that these eggs pose a risk to public health" as they represent a very small percentage of eggs consumed in the UK.

Numerous eggs were mixed with others which had not come from affected farms so Fipronil residues would be highly diluted, the FSA said. In large quantities fipronil can cause liver, kidney and thyroid gland damage.

About 700,000 of the eggs were distributed to the United Kingdom, with The Telegraph reporting that the British food safety watchdog had confirmed eggs may have already been eaten by consumers.

There is no evidence any British eggs have been contaminated but testing on United Kingdom farms are underway.

Prosecution service spokesman Marieke van der Molen said raids had been conducted at locations in both countries linked to the company that allegedly used the pesticide, as well as potential suppliers.

No fipronil-contaminated eggs have made it to consumers' plates in Italy, the Italian Health Ministry said last night.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine said it carries out tests on egg samples for fipronil as part of its annual residue testing programme.

Fipronil is widely used to treat pets for ticks and fleas but its use in the food chain, for example to clean out barns, is forbidden. Based on the available evidence there is no need for people to change the way they consume or cook eggs.

Twenty tonnes of the contaminated eggs have been sold, according to the Denmark's food safety authority.

Germany has imported 5 billion eggs over the past year from the Netherlands, where Europe's escalating insecticide-tainted egg scandal originated last week.

It is an insecticide which is not permitted for use around food-producing animals.

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