In case you missed the news this week, here’s what we know so far: during the first week in August, the Dutch food safety authority (NWMA) announced that they discovered tens of thousands of eggs contaminated with fipronil – a toxic anti-lice pesticide, banned in food production in the EU. Dutch and Belgian police have since made arrests at the homes of buyers of the fipronil-laced pesticides.
Millions of eggs could be contaminated. The full extent isn’t known yet, but 180 Dutch farms have been temporarily closed and major German retailers like Lidl and Aldi have been pulling eggs off their shelves. Authorities in Germany are testing other products made with eggs; like pasta, mayonnaise and cakes.
This is just the latest in a long-line of global food safety crises. Industrialised farming has been linked time and time again to outbreaks of E. coli, salmonella, listeria, bird flu, swine flu and Mad Cow disease.
Dutch and Belgian authorities may have known about the egg contamination two months ago, but the public is only learning about it now. Why did they take so long to react?
This is the result of a greedy industrial system bending the rules because of poor government oversight. We exist in a broken food system where suppliers cut corners at the expense of public health just to make more profit. Outbreaks like these seem to be happening more and more. All of this points to a deep-seated disease in the industrial agricultural system.
Our insatiable demand for beef, pork, dairy and eggs has created a massive industrial livestock system globally that’s about high volume at any cost. Too often, that system needlessly puts public health at serious risk. It fosters inhumane conditions for animals, encourages runaway deforestation for feed and grazing, causes pollution of rivers and oceans and contributes massively to the climate crisis. It is a disaster for our planet.
The solution is not just avoiding this product or that product. The best way to protect ourselves and our families from outbreaks is to change this broken system once and for all. We need more transparency. Authorities must put public safety and consumer protection above all else.
We can all play our part. Find out where your food comes from. Read what the label says. Try to buy from trusted ecological farms, retailers or markets. Grow more of your own food, if you can. Eat fewer animal-based products like beef, pork, dairy and eggs, which are often linked to these food scares. Embrace a diverse diet with more plant-rich food.
Together, we can fix food.
Christiane Huxdorff is a sustainable agriculture campaigner for Greenpeace Germany’s Food campaign.
Davin Hutchins is a senior campaigner with Greenpeace International’s Meat and Dairy campaign based in the United States.