Once a test indicates the maximum fipronil level has been exceeded, the authorities will be able to respond more quickly, said Feng Hai-tung (馮海東), head of the COA's Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine (BAPHIQ).
Hsu Jung-bin (徐榮彬), a BAPHIQ senior official pointed out that the current inspection process takes longer because samples are often left in the lab for one or two days before being tested.For example, Hsu said, if samples from 20 egg farms are required, staff will not send them to the lab until they collect all 20.
The BAPHIQ is considering testing samples on the day they are collected, rather than waiting until all samples are collected, thus speeding up the process, Hsu said.
A total of 27,636 kg, or 2,303 boxes of eggs contaminated with the toxic insecticide fipronil reached consumer markets in northern Taiwan from Jan. 27 to Feb. 13, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced Friday.
The FDA said it was notified by the Council of Agriculture (COA) on Feb. 13 that the fipronil level in three egg samples collected from Shun Hung (順弘) poultry farm in Changhua County on Jan. 25 was above the permitted maximum residue level.
The three egg samples were found to be contaminated with the insecticide at concentration levels of 0.03 parts per million (ppm), 0.04 ppm, and 0.06 ppm, respectively, exceeding the maximum residue level of 0.01 ppm, according to the agency.
The tainted eggs from Shun Hung were sold to breakfast shops, egg dealers and other retail outlets in Taipei and New Taipei between the time the samples were collected and the test results announced, the FDA said . The authorities were only able to track down and seize 792 kg, or 66 boxes of tainted eggs, while the rest are likely to have been consumed.
The authorities conducted a second test on five egg samples from the farm following the discovery and the results released on Feb. 14 indicated the fipronil level was below the maximum residue level of 0.01 ppm, according to Changhua Animal Disease Control Center Director Tung Meng-chih (董孟治).
To reassure the public eggs are safe for consumption, COA head Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) said that with a comprehensive system that facilitates traceability in place, the authorities are able to trace tainted eggs.This is the first time eggs from Shun Hung tested positive for exceedance of fipronil, Chen added.
Shun Hung is now included on a list of farms subject to random egg testing. Changhua county conducts 400 residue level tests of eggs every year, said Tung. The BAPHIQ said Friday that Shun Hung poultry farm will be fined NT$60,000 (US$1,945) for the violation.