Contaminated eggs discovered at 4 more farms

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Contaminated eggs discovered at 4 more farms

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Government officials destroy eggs containing excessive amounts of pesticides on a farm in Namyangju, Gyeonggi, on Wednesday. [YONHAP]

Eggs contaminated with pesticides were found at four more farms Wednesday, and the government promised to destroy all eggs produced at such farms.

But it said it will allow farms that pass inspections to distribute eggs to stabilize the market as soon as possible after major retailers suspended egg sales nationwide Tuesday.

Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon said Wednesday that all eggs from contaminated farms will be destroyed by Friday and eggs from safe farms will be distributed. He said the crisis could be solved in a couple of days.

“We plan on destroying all eggs, including fresh eggs and processed eggs containing fipronil even if they don’t exceed the safety standard as we believe they shouldn’t be consumed,” said Kim Young-rok, minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs, at a press briefing held at the Sejong Government Complex on Wednesday. “I apologize to the public for the concerns they have over the fipronil-contaminated eggs and promise the government will do its best to settle the issue as early as possible.”

The Ministry of Agriculture revealed Wednesday that some eggs produced at a Cheorwon, Gangwon-based farm, contained excessive amounts of fipronil, a type of pesticide not sanctioned for use on layer chickens.

This farm raises about 55,000 chickens and the ministry said some of the eggs produced at the farm contained 0.056mg/kg of fipronil, which exceeds the Codex International standard of 0.02mg/kg. In Korea, however, there is no official standard set for this pesticide.

Some farms use pesticides to kill mites and ticks on their chickens.

The government also said an egg farm in Yangju, Gyeonggi, was found to have eggs that contain excessive amounts of bifenthrin, a pesticide used to control borers and termites.

The farm has 23,000 chickens being raised, and some of the eggs were found to contain 0.07mg/kg of bifenthrin. The Korean standard is set at 0.01mg/kg.

The ministry announced Wednesday that it also found some eggs at a farm located in Naju, South Jeolla, containing excessive amounts of bifenthrin. The eggs contained 0.21mg/kg of the pesticide, which is 21 times more than the standard. However, the government didn’t disclose the final inspection results for the farm. There are now six farms found to have eggs containing an excessive amount of pesticides, including the two farms announced on Tuesday.

As of Wednesday, the government inspected a total of 243 farms, including 47 farms with more than 200,000 chickens being raised and found 241 of them meeting safety requirements. Farms with more than 200,000 chickens supply more than 50 percent of eggs distributed in Korea. Eggs from the 241 farms that passed government inspections - accounting for 25 percent of all eggs produced - will be able to be sold.

The agriculture minister said all 1,239 egg farms operating in the country will be inspected on the order of President Moon Jae-in. He said 1,013 farms will be inspected by the end of business on Wednesday, which is about 80 percent of the total. The ministry predicted about 80 percent of the eggs normally distributed to the market will be back in supply by Thursday.

“We do understand that there will be supply problems and we have asked large retail stores to cooperate by selling eggs at the same prices as before,” said Kim. “The retailers said they will cooperate.”

But there is still the possibility of finding more contaminated eggs. According to the Agriculture Ministry, the risk is particularly great at small and mid-size farms with less than 100,000 layer chickens. “Most of the inspections were on the large farms up and we are just starting to inspect 760 small and mid-size farms,” Kim said. “We think there is a possibility of finding more farms with eggs containing excessive amount of pesticides.”

Some major retailers who suspended egg sales on Tuesday resumed sales Wednesday after their products were approved by the government. GS Retail, which operates GS25 and GS Supermarket in the country, Nonghyup Hanaro Mart and e-commerce company TMON started reselling egg products on Wednesday.

Bakeries and other businesses worried about supplies, which were affected by the outbreak of avian influenza virus earlier this year.

“We will be able to hold on for a day or two using eggs stocked in advance but we will run into problems if the supply issue lasts for longer period of time,” said an executive of a large bread company that uses 60 tons of eggs, or 1 million eggs, every day.

Confectionery companies use processed or liquid egg products, and their prices have not been affected yet. But their prices rose nearly 4 percent after the outbreak of AI earlier this year. Major confectionery companies worry that some of their stocks may be from farms that were contaminated.

BY KIM YOUNG-NAM [kim.youngnam@joongang.co.kr]

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