Germany vigilant after massive recall of tainted eggs

Germany’s agriculture ministry said Tuesday it had set up a monitoring system to make sure no tainted eggs made it onto supermarket shelves.

Millions of eggs have been recalled in Belgium and the Netherlands over the past few days after they were found to contain high levels of the insecticide fipronil. According to the World Health Organization, the highly toxic substance can cause damage to the liver, thyroid glands and kidneys if ingested in large amounts. In higher doses it can cause vomiting, headaches and skin and eye irritation.

Read more: Germany’s love affair with the egg

A spokesman from Germany’s agriculture ministry told news agency DPA there shouldn’t be any affected eggs still in circulation in Germany, but he said officials were inspecting packing centers as a precaution. Eggs with fipronil were found at one such center in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, prompting the state to issue a recall for nearly 900,000 eggs from batches marked as 1-NL 4128604 or 1-NL 4286001.

“We’ve never seen fipronil before, that was something new for our experts,” the German agricultural ministry spokesman said, but added that there was no health risk.

Massive recall over the border

Meanwhile, about 130 poultry farms have been shuttered in the Netherlands “due to the presence of the suspect substance fipronil” which had been found in samples taken from “eggs, droppings and meat,” the Dutch food safety agency NWVA said Tuesday.

It added that about a million eggs being transported to Germany had been recalled from the border with the Netherlands. 

Read more: German food scandals

Prosecutors are looking into how the eggs came to be contaminated. While fipronil is a common ingredient in veterinary products for getting rid of fleas, lice and ticks, it is banned from being used to treat animals destined for human consumption such as chickens. However, one Dutch company reportedly used the substance to control red lice in their chicken coops.

“We are still estimating the number of farms which have been affected, and the analysis of 600 samples is still ongoing,” a spokesman for the NWVA told news agency Agence France Presse. “Affected farms must have all eggs destroyed by a specialist firm and submit to the NWVA a plan to evacuate the birds’ droppings to preserve the environment.”

Late Monday, the NWVA sent out a warning to consumers that eggs with X-NL-4015XX stamped on them had dangerously high levels of the insecticide.

Chickens can remain contaminated for between six to eight weeks.

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    Germany’s love affair with the egg

    Beyond Easter eggs

    Even though we all know bunnies don’t lay eggs, pictures like this one still turn up at this time every year. In Germany, however, it seems that eggs’ special status extends well beyond the Easter holiday. From breakfast to decor, Germans have a special relationship with eggs. Here’s more.

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    The breakfast egg

    Eggs are eaten all over the world for breakfast – scrambled, poached, boiled, or fried. In Germany, the soft-boiled egg is a requirement at every big Sunday breakfast. Typically, it is not considered a main dish and not eaten with an omnipresent bread roll, but stands alone in a dish of its own, like a work of art adorned only with a dash of salt. Usually the yolk – the “Eigelb” – is left runny.

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    Germany’s love affair with the egg

    The egg cup

    Since eggs are neither flat nor perfectly round, they would wobble all over a plate. For this reason, the revered breakfast staple is granted a specially designed bowl of its own. In the land of design and engineering, this is a wide-open invitation for creativity. Egg cups can be found in unlimited variety. They usually include their own specially sized spoon and personal miniature salt shaker.

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    The egg cracker

    A throne for the breakfast egg, a perfectly sized spoon and a tiny salt shaker are not enough. In Germany, you also have a highly specialized egg opening device known as an “Eierschalensollbruchstellenverursacher” (egg shell breaking point causer). By dropping the ball attached to the post, pressure is applied evenly in a ring around the top of the egg. The crown can then be cleanly removed.

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    A growing love

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    Status versus quantity

    Considering the practically holy status of the German breakfast egg, one might think that the Germans are leagues ahead of the pack when it comes to total consumption. Each American, however, ate around 267 eggs last year, according to the American Egg Board – but there, scrambling up multiple eggs is more popular than a single pedastaled treasure. In the UK per capita consumption came in at 192.

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    Brown or white

    Chicken eggs generally come in two colors, depending on the species. While white eggs were most common in Germany in the 70s and 80s, more egg eaters started buying brown eggs when the organic food trend began. They are considered to be healthier and more natural. In fact there is no difference between the two kinds – except for a bit of pigment. White eggs, however, are easier to dye for Easter.

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    Rainbow eggs all year round

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    Germany’s love affair with the egg

    A slice here and there

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    Germany’s love affair with the egg

    The egg tree

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    Author: Kate Müser


nm/kms (AFP, dpa)

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