A customer is looking at empty egg shelves at one of Korea’s major discount store chain. [By Lee Chung-woo]
Eggs were removed from grocery shop shelves and banned from distribution as ongoing government probe has discovered pesticide contamination in South Korean chicken farms.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs on Tuesday issued a ban on egg production and distribution until it is finished with examination at all 1,456 farms across the nation. The action followed discovery of eggs tainted with fipronil, the same type of pesticide that sparked mass-scale egg recall across Europe recently, in a farm in Namyangju, Gyeonggi Province. Eggs from farms in several regions in Gyeonggi and Cheolwon, Gangwon Province, contained excessive residues of bifenthrin, another restricted insecticide used to kill ants but can be harmful to human nervous system.
Fipronil is an insecticide used primarily to combat lice, ticks, and fleas in animals. It is banned in Korea, the United States, European Union, and others on livestock because it can be harmful to nervous system. The World Health Organization defines fipronil as “moderately toxic,” but warns damaging to internal organs like liver and kidney when ingested in massive quantities.
The local authority embarked on an investigation after Belgium-triggered egg-tainted scare spread in Europe.
Investigation so far discovered pesticide contamination in eggs at 245 farms in five areas across the nation. Authorities plan to complete the probe this week.
The news triggered panic among Korean consumers who are avid lovers of chicken and eggs and rocked the industry still vulnerable from the avian flu spread that wiped out 36 percent of egg-laying hen population in spring.
The scare led to suspicion on the state certification system as some of the pesticide-tainted eggs from organic farms bore certification for safety from antibiotics use.
Large retailers, grocery chains, and online vendors willingly stopped sales of eggs. The latest scandal is expected to hit hard on bakeries and others using egg as basic ingredient and fan spike in fresh egg prices, still high since the bird flu spread.
By Seok Min-soo and Kim Se-woong
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]