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Food scare Swiss supermarkets stop selling imported eggs

Around 180 poultry companies in the Netherlands have been temporarily closed, and some firms have culled their flock, after traces of insecticide fipronil were found in eggs in Belgium
and the Netherlands last month

(Keystone)

Supermarket chains Aldi Switzerland, Migros and Coop are withdrawing all imported eggs from sale at their stores as a precaution, as a scare over possible insecticide contamination spreads. Swiss eggs are not affected, officials say. 

Aldi Switzerland said on Friday it was withdrawing imported eggs as a precautionary measure. Later, the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (OSAV) announcedexternal link that residues of the insecticide fipronil had been detected in eggs imported from the Netherlands. 

“This discovery was made during checks by Swiss importers. The levels registered have up to now not been a danger to consumers,” the OSAV said in a statement. 

Aldi said it must be assumed that there would be no consequences for customers’ health.

Traces of the insecticide fipronil were found in eggs in Belgium and the Netherlands last month, which has led to the temporary shut-down of some poultry farms, and to supermarkets halting the sale of eggs from the Netherlands. 

'Moderately toxic'

Fipronil is considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be moderately toxic, with high doses leading to feelings of nausea and dizziness. Very large quantities can cause damage to the kidneys, liver and lymph glands. 

Investigators suspect the chemical may have gotten into eggs through a contaminated detergent against mites called Dega 16 that is used to clean barns, and criminal investigations have been launched in both Belgium and the Netherlands. The Netherlands is the world's second-largest agricultural exporter after the United States and sells around 5 billion eggs a year to Germany. 

The OSAV is collaborating with cantonal authorities and importers to determine to what extent Switzerland is affected. 

“The cases identified so far concern eggs delivered by seven Dutch firms which have been marketed,” said OSAV. 

Aldi said on Friday it had withdrawn all eggs from sale at its more than 4,000 stores in Germany as a precaution, and is carrying out tests. Several other supermarket chains including Germany's REWE and Penny have taken Dutch eggs off their shelves. Aldi is the first major retailer to stop the sale of eggs altogether, regardless of origin. 

Aldi Switzerland said only eggs that have tested negative for fipronil would be imported into Switzerland. It currently offers eight assortments of eggs, including five from Swiss hens. The others come from Europe. 

U-turn

Supermarket giants Migros and Coop initially said they would not stop selling imported eggs but revised their positions on Friday afternoon.

Migros, which buys eggs from the Netherlands for its low-price M-Budget range, says some imported eggs contained traces of fipronil and had been taken off supermarket shelves. The packs affected have the August 26 sell-by date. 

Coop said its eggs were not affected but said it had decided to withdraw all imported eggs from its stores as a preventive measure. 

In Switzerland, the use of fipronil for farming purposes is forbidden. OSAV has no information that it is being used in the chicken farm business across the country. 

swissinfo.ch/sb

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