In an official statement on its website, the Taiwan FDA said: “To strengthen the food safety and hygiene management of imported eggs and egg products. [the FDA has decided that] an ‘Official Food Hygiene Certification Document for Imported Eggs and Egg Products for Food Purposes’ will need to be attached [for all related imports starting August 1 2019].”
The new regulation will apply to all eggs and related products, including fresh eggs, eggs in liquid form, liquid egg whites, liquid egg yolks, whole egg powders, egg yolk powder and so on.
The agency added that tighter checks had already been conducted on imported eggs since January 1 this year.
According to Taiwan FDA senior specialist Tung Ching-hsin, the heightened caution is in response to fipronil scares in Europe and Asia.
“First-time importers will also need to have their plants inspected by the FDA to ensure sanitary standards,” she told Focus Taiwan.
Taiwan FDA data showed that the top egg exporting country to Taiwan in 2018 was the United States at 1.3 million kg, followed by Italy at 472,754kg and Ukraine at 253,440kg.
Fipronil is an insecticide that can also be used for flea control. In 2017, fipronil was the subject of a major egg contamination incident that affected some 15 countries across Europe and Asia, particularly the Netherlands where the contamination was thought to have originated.
According to the National Pesticide Information Centre, skin contact with fipronil can result in skin irritation, whereas consumption of the pesticide can cause health effects such as nausea, vomittinf, dizziness, seizures and more.
Contaminated Dutch eggs were found to have reached as far as Hong Kong back in 2017, and Taiwan reported the discovery of more fipronil-contaminated eggs earlier in February this year.
Taiwan FDA numbers revealed that some 27,636 kg or 2,303 boxes of fipronil-contaminated eggs had reached northern Taiwanese markets in between the period from January 27 to February 13 this year.
“By the time the egg samples had been collected, analysed and test results made available, the contaminated eggs had been sold,” it said.
“Only 66 boxes of eggs were recovered [upon taking action, whereas the rest were likely already consumed].”
Egg prices also a concern
Fipronil aside, egg prices in Taiwan also shocked local residents earlier this year due to a shortage of egg production in the country, as a result of a high mortality rate in chickens last year. Reasons for this included a failed vaccination attempt and weather changes.
According to Radio Taiwan International, egg prices rose to a 20-year high of NT$45 (US$1.43) per 600g of eggs, whereas wholesale prices climbed some 33% from NT$27 (US$0.86) to NT$36 (US$1.14) for 600g.
That said, local egg vendors claimed that demand for eggs remained high despite the rising prices.