Israel may eschew European eggs over pesticide risk
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Israel may eschew European eggs over pesticide risk

Local quotas will be reexamined in bid to avoid importing eggs for the holidays following huge EU contamination

Chickens at the Givat Olam organic farm near the settlement of Itamar, on April 9, 2012. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Chickens at the Givat Olam organic farm near the settlement of Itamar, on April 9, 2012. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

A massive European egg contamination has Israel’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development hatching a plan to ensure that the country has enough local eggs for the upcoming Jewish holidays, traditionally a period of high egg consumption.

Millions of eggs in Europe have been contaminated with the pesticide fipronil, which reached at least 15 European Union countries and as far afield as Hong Kong. The pesticide is used for treatment of mites and other insects but is illegal to use on any animals in the human food chain. Ingesting large quantities of the pesticide can lead to damage of the liver, kidney, or thyroid gland.

The poultry industry in Israel is controlled by a quota system, where farmers can only produce a certain amount of eggs to avoid deflating prices. During holiday periods, when Israeli egg consumption has a spike, the ministry sometimes imports eggs to meet local needs while keeping egg production stable.

On Tuesday, the Agriculture Ministry announced, in light of the European contamination crisis, that it would reexamine the local quotas and announce new ones in 10 days.

Agriculture Ministry director Shlomo Ben Eliyahu pledged that “the country will not lack for even a single egg” over the holiday period.

An ultra orthodox man carries eggs in Jerusalem on April 5, 2009. (Matanya Tausig/Flash90)
An ultra Orthodox man carries eggs in Jerusalem on April 5, 2009. (Matanya Tausig/Flash90)

In July, before news of the contamination broke, the ministry announced it would allow the importation of 30 million eggs during the fall holiday season, which includes the Jewish New Year of Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot. They expected to import eggs from Italy, Spain, and Portugal. During the Passover holidays earlier this year, the ministry allowed for the importation of 100 million eggs.

The move angered Israel’s 3,000 poultry growers, who accused the ministry of allowing too many eggs into the country and poaching their profits.

“It’s not clear to us why the Agriculture Ministry, which is supposed to be responsible for strengthening Israeli agriculture, chooses to turn Israel into a recipient of Europe’s surplus eggs,” said Chicken Growers Association secretary Motti Elkabetz.

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