According to a source close to top EU official, an international scandal involving eggs tainted by the insecticide fipronil has spread to 45 countries worldwide, including five Arab countries.

The five Middle Eastern countries believed to be affected are Saudi Arabia, UAE, Lebanon, Qatar and Iraq.

The World Health Organisation says the highly toxic substance can damage the liver, thyroid glands and kidneys if ingested in large amounts over time.

This insecticide had previously been banned from use on farms. It was commonly applied to kill fleas, lice, mites, and ticks.

Millions of eggs have so far been pulled from European supermarket shelves. Many national regulators have voiced concern that the contaminated eggs have already entered the food chain, mainly through processed products such as biscuits, cakes, and salads.

Mercy For Animals reported that more than 17 countries across Europe and in Asia threw out millions of eggs after news broke that the eggs contained fipronil. In addition, Dutch farmers killed more than 300,000 hens to prevent the spread of disease.

In the UAE, the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) issued a circular to the concerned local authorities to ensure that the country's markets are free of contaminated eggs from the Netherlands. 

The Ministry also tightened the controls on shipments of eggs and other food products to ensure their safety and fitness for human consumption.

At the beginning of August, Dutch and Belgian police investigators arrested two suspects and conducted coordinated raids as part of a probe into the illegal use of a banned insecticide in the poultry industry.

On July 20th, Belgium became the first country to officially notify the European Union's food safety alert system. 

However, the news did not go public until August 1st, after authorities in the Netherlands ordered eggs to be pulled from supermarket shelves and urged shoppers to throw away what they had already purchased.

The scandal has not only caused a health scare but has also created a dispute as Belgium accuses the Netherlands of having detected the contaminated eggs as far back as November, yet decided to withhold the important information. Dutch authorities have denied these allegations.

"The impact of the illegal use of this product has reached an EU-wide dimension with today hundreds of farms blocked for production, 26 (EU) member states and 19 third countries involved," the European Health Commissioner, Vytenis Andriukaitis, told a press conference in Tallinn.

EU ministers are scheduled to meet again in Brussels at the end of September to discuss how to improve food safety standards and prevent fraud in light of the recent news.

So far, nobody has fallen ill as a result of the ongoing scandal.

Latest EU-wide problems with contaminated eggs follows last month's horse meat scandal

AP reported last month that authorities had arrested at least 66 people in a European food scam which sold horse meat unfit for human consumption.

Europol officials had announced a coordinated effort to bring the perpetrators to justice. In Spain, 65 people faced a series of charges relating to public health, money laundering and animal abuse.

The operation took several months and the chief suspect, a Dutch businessman, was arrested in Belgium in April.

Spain’s Civil Guard said that the criminal ring acquired horses in Spain and Portugal that were “in poor shape, old, or had been designated ‘not apt for consumption.’” 

After falsifying paperwork and substituting micro chips used to identify the horses, the animals were slaughtered and the meat shipped to Belgium.

horse meat scandal europe
Source: Reuters

Fingers are pointed as tensions rise over the scandal

Contaminated eggs are turning up everywhere