Originally, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) claimed a small proportion (0.001%) of eggs contaminated with insecticide Fipronil from Dutch producers had entered the UK. However, that was wrong and it now stands at about 700,000 (0.007%).
The FSA claimed it is unlikely eggs contaminated with the pesticide pose a risk to public health, but supermarkets have reacted to the news by pulling products containing processed egg from their shelves.
“The products affected are processed foods in which egg is one ingredient among many others, mostly used in sandwich fillings or other 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,” said the FSA.
“Many of the eggs involved were mixed with other eggs that have not come from affected farms so Fipronil residues will be highly diluted. It is likely that the number of eggs that have come to the UK is closer to 700,000 rather than the 21,000 we previously believed had been imported.
“However, 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."
Some of the contaminated egg products will have had a short shelf life and will have already been consumed, the food safety organisation added.
However, some will still be on the shelves and businesses are being encouraged to withdraw them immediately.
The FSA added: “The decision to withdraw these products is not due to food safety concerns, but is based on the fact that Fipronil is not authorised for use in food producing animals."
It continued: “We are reminding food businesses of their legal responsibilities, which include informing the FSA or FSS (Food Standards Scotland) and relevant local authorities immediately if they have any reason to believe that a food that they have imported, produced, processed or distributed does not comply with food safety requirements.”
Some 85% of the eggs consumed in the UK are laid here and there is no evidence to suggest UK-produced eggs are contaminated with Fipronil, said the FSA. However, UK egg farms are undergoing checks to ensure this is the case.
FSA chairman Heather Hancock said: “I’m confident that acting quickly is the right thing to do. The number of eggs involved is small in proportion to the number of eggs we eat, and it is very unlikely that there is a risk to public health.
"Based on the available evidence, there is no need for people to change the way they consume or cook eggs. However, Fipronil is not legally allowed for use near food-producing animals and it shouldn’t be there.”