When it comes to food hygiene, the EU and Rejoiners should come clean

Graham Charles Lear
6 min readJan 11, 2024
EU PORK

EU’s food safety standards have been poor for years

Millions of contaminated EU eggs, EU pus-infected pork, chlorine-washed EU fruit and veg — the list goes on…

When it comes to food hygiene, the EU and Rejoiners should come clean

With social media full of Rejoiners saying they won’t buy UK supermarket products with packaging which now says “Not For EU” because it implies UK food safety standards are not as good as the EU’s, I bring them the story of millions of contaminated EU eggs… and chlorine-washed EU fruit and veg.

EU food plant

Ask a British person how they like their eggs and they will come up with a variety of answers. Boiled, fried, poached, scrambled, and many variations thereof. The one answer you are highly unlikely to hear is “contaminated”. Yet this is precisely what EU producers served up to UK consumers six years ago.

If “you are what you eat”, then food hygiene is an important topic

Food hygiene is a complex subject but it all comes down to one thing. We want to buy and eat healthy food which is not going to make us ill or kill us in the long term because of the use of chemicals.

Unsurprisingly, EU laws and regulations on food production and sale are epic in their scope. What matters, however, is not the hundreds of thousands of words in EU documents but what we ultimately put in our mouths.

Rejoiner MPs and campaigners might wish to think about the following before they next speak about good British produce labelled “Not For EU”. They might also reflect on the fact that this label is only becoming necessary this year as a result of the EU’s egregious N.I. Protocol and the Windsor Framework, which Rishi Sunak meekly signed up to last year.

The great EU, Belgian, and Dutch egg scandal

  • In 2017 when we were still in the EU, 700,000 contaminated eggs from Belgium and Holland made it into the UK’s food chain
  • A variety of egg products had to be pulled from the shelves at Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Morrisons and Asda
  • A massive scandal in the EU, but barely reported in the UK.

Contaminated EU eggs

In 2017, the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) discovered that around 700,000 contaminated eggs from Belgium and Holland had made it into the UK’s food chain. Here is the information I produced at the time:-

The UK Food Standards Agency’s statement said :

“Some of the products made from these eggs will have had a short shelf life and will have already been consumed, however, we identified some that were still within the expiry date. These are now being withdrawn by the businesses involved. Attached is a list of products we have identified to date and we will update this list as our investigations proceed.”

EU bodies, Belgium, and the Netherlands accused each other of complicity

The Belgian Health Minister at the time

The office of the then Belgian Health Minister Maggie de Block claimed that they had alerted the EU on 6th July (2017) and that Dutch authorities had known about the contamination as long ago as November 2016. The Netherlands Food Safety Agency (NVWA) denied this but was less clear about why it had not alerted authorities in June 2017 when the accusations resurfaced.

Photo: Former Belgian Health Minister Maggie de Block

It then emerged that Dutch police had arrested two directors of a Dutch company in connection with the scandal.

EU Commission: ‘Nothing to do with us’

Meanwhile, the EU itself could not fully deny claims from Belgium that it had been told about the problem in early July 2017. On 10 August 2017, the EU Commission said:

“On July 6, there was a bilateral exchange between Belgium and the Netherlands within the framework of the so-called administrative support and cooperation system. The Commission does not actively monitor the exchange in the AAC as is the case with the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF).”

In effect, the Commission wanted to distance itself from the growing crisis, which involved millions of eggs in the EU, hundreds of thousands of which had made it into the UK’s food chain.

Chlorinated food? No problem if it’s produced in the EU

The EU permits chlorine-washed fruit and vegetables

  • The EU permits chlorine-washed fruit and vegetables
  • The industrial washing of fresh fruit and vegetables is permitted in the EU But hey, mention chicken from the US and all hell breaks loose
  • Next time Rejoiner MPs and campaigners open a bag of prepared lettuce from Spain, they may wish to give that some thought.

Imported food products from around the world into the EU — many offenders

Imported food products from outside the EU must comply with EU regulations, but of course, only a small proportion are inspected. Over time, serial offenders may become subject to stricter controls.

To give readers some idea of the types of contaminated products which made it into our food chain while the UK was a member of the EU, below is a list of just some of them.

These food items below were all put on an EU Regulation, but only after they had been imported for a considerable period. They were not banned, merely subject to closer supervision.

Since July 2018 the following processed fruit and vegetables
have been on the UK’s stricter inspection list.

  • Preserved apricots from Turkey and Uzbekistan (increased control on the presence of Sulphites)
  • Dried apricots from Turkey and Uzbekistan (increased control on the presence of Sulphites)
  • Dried lemons from Turkey (increased control for the presence of Pesticide residues)
  • Frozen raspberries from Serbia (increased control on the presence of Norovirus)
  • Frozen sweet peppers from the Dominican Republic, Egypt, India and Turkey (increased control on the presence of pesticide residues)
  • Frozen other peppers from the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Thailand, India, Pakistan and Vietnam (increased control on the presence of pesticide residues)
  • Peanut butter from Bolivia, Gambia, Madagascar, Sudan and Senegal (increased control on the presence of Aflatoxins)
  • Groundnuts (peanuts) from Bolivia, Gambia, Madagascar, Sudan and Senegal (increased control on the presence of Aflatoxins)
  • Hazelnuts from Georgia (increased control on the presence of Aflatoxins)
  • Pistachios from the United States (increased control on the presence of Aflatoxins)
  • Dried goji berries from China (increased control on the presence of pesticide residues)
  • Frozen okra from India and Vietnam (increased control on the presence of pesticide residues)
  • Preserved turnips from Lebanon and Syria (increased control on the presence of rhodamine B)
  • Dried peppers from Sri Lanka (increased control on the presence of aflatoxins)
  • Dried grapes from Turkey (increased control on the presence of ochratoxin A)
  • Preserved vine leaves from Turkey (increased control on the presence of pesticide residues)

Egg-xit?

Can you imagine what the EU itself would have done if it had been British eggs that were contaminated? I have absolutely no doubt that a total ban on UK egg exports would have been imposed by the EU Commission — within hours.

It’s a shame that the very high standards of food production in the UK, often far higher than in most EU countries, are not more widely celebrated by the government and the British media.

Sources: FSA | Die Welt | RTBF | AFSCA

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Graham Charles Lear

What is life without a little controversy in it? Quite boring and sterile would be my answer.