Discount supermarket chain Aldi is withdrawing all eggs from sale at its more than 4,000 stores in Germany as a precaution, it said on Friday, as a scare over the possible contamination of eggs with insecticide spreads.
Traces of 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.
Fipronil is considered by the World Health Organizstion 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.
German Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt said the likelihood of a health hazard was very unlikely, but German state authorities were working to examine all egg supplies and determine where they originated or were processed.
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 detergent was also supplied to farms in the northern German state of Lower Saxony, from where eggs were distributed across the country, Lower Saxony’s agriculture ministry said.
Dutch food safety watchdog NVWA said this week only a limited type of egg, recognisable by specific serial numbers, posed a risk.
Nonetheless, around 180 poultry companies in the Netherlands have been temporarily closed, and some firms have culled their flock.