British food safety authorities say far more eggs possibly tainted with the pesticide Fipronil have been imported to the United Kingdom from elsewhere in Europe than previously thought. But they say the number is a tiny fraction of the eggs consumed each year in the country.
The Food Standards Agency says it's likely that the number of eggs that have come to the UK is closer to 700,000 than the 21,000 officials previously believed had been imported.
The agency has issued a list of recalled processed foods including sandwiches and salads in which the eggs were found, but added that many eggs were mixed with other eggs from unaffected farms, so any Fipronil residues would be diluted.
The agency says that 85 per cent of eggs eaten in the United Kingdom are laid there and "we have no evidence that eggs laid in the UK are contaminated or that Fipronil has been used inappropriately in the UK."
Millions of eggs have been pulled from supermarket shelves across Europe but no illnesses have been reported.
Dutch arrest 2 suspects in investigation into tainted eggs
Dutch investigators on Thursday detained two men suspected of being involved in the illegal use of pesticide at poultry farms that sparked a food safety scare in several European countries.
The detentions and a series of coordinated raids in the Netherlands and Belgium marked another escalation in a widening scandal that has seen eggs tainted with the pesticide Fipronil stripped from shelves in countries including the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.
Food safety authorities in other countries, including Britain, have reported discovering eggs from farms where Fipronil was used or products containing eggs from those farms.
It's believed that the insecticide got into the food chain when it was illegally added to a product used to treat poultry for lice, fleas and ticks.
Though no one has been reported as falling sick, prosecutors said in a statement that there is evidence that public health has been threatened by "the delivery or application of the biocide Fipronil in poultry houses in the egg sector."
The Dutch investigation, they added, is focusing on a Dutch company that allegedly applied the Fipronil, the presumed Belgian supplier and a Dutch trader who worked together with the supplier.
Dutch farms produce billions of eggs each year, the majority for the export market. An estimated 5 billion eggs are sold each year to Germany alone, according to a poultry farming union in the Netherlands.
Dozens of Dutch farms visited by the company suspected of using Fipronil have been temporarily banned from selling their eggs until the hens and their stalls are declared cleared of the pesticide.
During Thursday's raids, which were coordinated with European Union police agency Europol, investigators seized documents, bank account details and also automobiles and real estate.
Crime "may not pay," prosecutors said.