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Tainted eggs: five chicken farms sealed

Pesticide found in local and imported eggs, but levels were low

Five chicken farms have been sealed by the public health authorities after tests showed that eggs had traces of the pesticide fipronil.

Charmaine Gauci, superintendent of public health, said this afternoon that the farms will remain “blocked” pending further tests on the premises.

The public health authorities yesterday said that tests showed that eight of 20 egg samples (14 packed in Malta and six imported) collected from shops earlier this month were contaminated with fipronil, a pesticide whose use to treat animals is banned when the animals are reared for food.

Dr Gauci explained that six of the eight samples that tested positive were eggs packed at five Maltese farms, while the other two instances involved imported eggs. She said tests were now being conducted on all 36 chicken farms in Malta and Gozo.

The contaminated imported eggs came from Italy from two producers that had not yet been flagged by the Italian authorities, she noted.

She said the highest level of fipronil traced in the contaminated eggs was almost four times less than the EU limit that would have sparked a consumer recall because of possible adverse effects on human health.

Dr Gauci said all eggs distributed by the farms and importers in question were collected by the public health authorities to be destroyed but there was no need for a consumer recall. The recommendation for people not to consume more than two eggs a day still stood, she said, adding that this was a precautionary measure.

Dr Gauci insisted there was no cause for alarm given that the highest pesticide limit traced in eggs from the Maltese market was way below the threshold.

Asked whether traces of fipronil could be found in chicken meat, Dr Gauci said chickens that were bred for consumption differed from those that produced eggs. “Chickens that are used in egg production do not end up as food, even so we have taken samples from the farms in question to determine whether their livestock is contaminated with fipronil,” she said.

Dr Gauci pointed out that chickens bred for human consumption were slaughtered at a very young age, making it difficult for fipronil to accumulate in their muscles.

The results from all farms will be known in a matter of weeks since tests will be conducted in Germany.

Investigations as to how the eggs packed in Malta were tainted are still ongoing since no fipronil was found at the farms during inspections over the past 24 hours.

Pesticide levels

0.72mg/kg : Pesticide residue level that sparks consumer recall because of possible negative consequence on human health

0.024 to 0.21mg/kg : Pesticide residue level in eggs from Malta that leads to farms being sealed pending further results

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