HONG Kong is increasing inspections of eggs imported from Europe after some were found to be contaminated with an insecticide in a scandal which has now spread beyond the European Union.
Millions of eggs have been pulled from supermarket shelves across Europe and dozens of poultry farms closed since the discovery of fipronil, which can be harmful to humans, was made public on August 1.
But in a sign the crisis is going global, Brussels announced on Friday that Hong Kong had received some tainted eggs from the Netherlands, with the city becoming the first place in Asia known to be affected.
Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan said on Saturday that Hong Kong authorities were “strengthening” inspections of eggs from Europe.
“The Center for Food Safety is now inspecting eggs coming from Europe closely, no matter at the import, or at the retail level,” Chan said.
She said measures at both import and retail levels have been taken. At “the import level, they have increased surveillance and checked all the eggs from the respective countries that have problems, for example, Belgium, also Holland and all the rest.”
Egg imports are stringently controlled and only those with recognized health certificates can be imported to Hong Kong, she added. “As far as the retail level is concerned, they have also retracted the problematic eggs, as well as increased the surveillance on eggs, especially (those) coming from European countries.”
The food safety center is in contact with wholesalers and retailers to discuss precautionary measures to prevent the inflow of problematic eggs, she added.
On Friday, it said it found two samples of eggs from the Netherlands to have exceeded local fipronil limits.
“The CFS has informed the vendors concerned of the irregularities and requested the trade to stop sale and remove from shelves” it said on its website.
Free range eggs from Spain were seen on sale at a grocery store in east Hong Kong Island on Saturday. The owner said that his Spanish eggs had already been checked for chemicals, but that the US and Hong Kong offerings may be “safer.”
Fipronil is commonly used to get rid of fleas, lice and ticks from animals but the substance is banned by the EU from use in the food industry.
The EU insists there is no threat to human health, but the World Health Organization says that when eaten in large quantities it can harm people’s kidneys, liver and thyroid glands.