German agriculture officials said on Thursday that the country had been “worse affected” than initially thought as they believe affected eggs have made it into 12 out of 16 German states, amounting to at least three million from the Netherlands.
However, Lower Saxony agriculture minister Christian Meyer told ZDF public television on Friday that it was now believed 10 million contaminated eggs might have reached Germany.
Aldi Süd and Aldi Nord both stopped selling eggs altogether for the time being in response, and many other supermarket chains have also been throwing out suspect eggs.
But why are people so worried about the insecticide in question, fipronil, and what should egg consumers do? Here are some answers:
Is fipronil dangerous to humans?
In experiments with rats, the substance caused damage to the nervous system and the liver, according to the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR).
The US National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) states that “direct, short-term contact with skin can result in slight skin irritation.”
“When individuals have eaten fipronil, reported health effects included sweating, nausea, vomiting, headache, stomach pain, dizziness, weakness, and seizures.”
German officials have said that the levels of the substance detected in the eggs is not high enough to generally be dangerous for adults, but could be risky for children.
How many eggs with fipronil would an adult have to eat for it to be harmful?
So far the highest amount of fipronil measured was 1.2 milligrams per kilogram of egg. Based on this, the BfR calculates that an adult weighing 65 kilos (143 pounds) would be able to eat up to seven eggs within a 24-hour period and still be within the safe range.
The German Nutrition Society (DGE) in general recommends not eating more than three eggs per week.
What about the risk to children?
The BfR calculates that a child weighing 16.15 kilos (35.6 pounds) should not eat more than 1.7 contaminated eggs within 24 hours.
How do you know if your eggs could be contaminated?
Check the number stamped on your eggs against a list found on the website www.lebensmittelwarnung.de. The website allows you to select your state or see all warnings and then read which eggs (Konsumei/Konsumeier) are listed.
Dutch authorities have posted a full list of the affected egg numbers from their country here, and in Lower Saxony, the following numbers also tested positive for the insecticide: 1-DE-0357731, 1-DE-0358001, 0-DE-0360521.
If your eggs match up, it’s fine to throw them out, or you could even return them to the store to get your money back.
How did all this start?
Fipronil is commonly used in veterinary products to get rid of fleas, lice and ticks. But it is banned from being used to treat animals destined for human consumption such as chickens.
On Monday close to 900,000 eggs were recalled from shops in North Rhine-Westphalia due to excessive levels of the insecticide.
Authorities suspect the substance was introduced to poultry farms by a Dutch business named Chickfriend that was brought in to treat red lice, a nasty 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.