Fipronil fears first emerged on the continent in July 2017 when contamination was discovered on Dutch poultry farms. Initially, it was not thought to have affected the UK.
However, it wasn’t long before the Food Standards Agency (FSA) reported that some cases had been picked up here. It soon revised its figures and admitted that rather than the 21,000 eggs initially reported, 700,000 eggs had been imported and used in a variety of processed products.
Revised its figures
This included eggs used in sandwich fillings and chilled foods, sold in supermarkets, 11 of which were recalled.
The Sudan 1 incidents of 2005 were similarly believed initially to involve just a small number of products. But the number of recalls snowballed, until it became apparent that a major international incident had occurred.
As with fipronil – which it fairly pointed out represented just 0.007% of the eggs we consume in the UK every year – the FSA was at pains to reassure the public that Sudan 1 posed minimal public health risk.
At pains to reassure the public
But, since Sudan 1 was banned from use, any presence – however small – was illegal and foods containing it had to be removed from sale. The FSA said the same thing for fipronil.
The cost of the Sudan 1 scandal to the UK food industry was huge and, it was argued, wholly disproportionate to the risk to the public involved. It was an argument the FSA eventually accepted.
One has to ask the question: if the health risk of fipronil was minimal, was the FSA’s action proportionate? And, if it was in this case, at what point is action not justified?
Meanwhile, order your copy of the September edition of our sister title Food Manufacture here.