FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Discount supermarket chain Aldi is withdrawing all eggs from sale at its more than 4,000 stores in Germany as a precaution, it said on Friday, as a scare over the possible contamination of eggs with insecticide spreads.

Traces of insecticide fipronil were found in eggs in Belgium and the Netherlands last month, which has led to the temporary shut-down of some poultry farms and to supermarkets halting the sale of Dutch eggs.

Investigators suspect the chemical may have gotten into eggs through contaminated detergent against mites that is used to clean barns.

The detergent was also supplied to farms in the northern German state of Lower Saxony, from where eggs are distributed across the country, Germany’s food and agriculture ministry has said.

Aldi is the first major retailer to take all eggs, regardless of origin, off its shelves.

“As there have been reports from more and more (German) federal states about the discovery of fipronil in eggs, Aldi South and Aldi North have decided to remove all eggs from sale across the country,” the two operators of Aldi supermarkets said in a joint statement on Friday.

“This is merely a precaution, there is no reason to assume there are any health risks,” they added.

Fipronil is considered by the World Health Organization to be moderately toxic, with high doses leading to feelings of nausea and dizziness. Very large quantities can cause damage to the kidneys, liver and lymph glands.

Dutch food safety watchdog NVWA said this week that only a limited type of egg, recognizable by specific serial numbers, posed a risk.

Nonetheless, around 180 poultry companies in the Netherlands, the second-largest agricultural exporter after the United States, have been temporarily closed, and some firms have culled their flock.

Aldi said it would only accept eggs for the moment that have been tested for fipronil by a public agency or an accredited laboratory, adding there may be a shortage of eggs due to the move.

Reporting by Maria Sheahan; Additional reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; Editing by Jane Merriman and Mark Potter

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