Rome, Aug 23 (IANS/AKI) Italian Police on Wednesday said they seized 91,000 eggs contaminated with the insecticide Fipronil after tests were carried out on two poultry farms in the Lazio and Marche regions amid a widening scandal.

Police impounded 6,000 eggs and 12,000 hens in the city of Ancona in Marche and a total of 85,000 eggs in the Lazio city of Viterbo.

Of the eggs seized in Viterbo, 53,000 were destined for human and 32,000 for animal consumption, police said.

"It's possible that the contamination was accidental," said Adelmo Lusi, head of the anti-adulteration unit of Italy's paramilitary Carabinieri police (Nas).

So far there have been seven cases of Fipronil contamination in Italy, Lusi said.

Fipronil is used to treat animals for parasites such as lice, fleas and ticks and investigators are probing whether the contamination occurred during disinfestations of the areas where poultry are kept, Lusi said.

"An extremely low percentage" of samples of eggs and egg products had tested positive for Fipronil until now, he underlined.

"Rigorous testing carried out by producers and distributors means Italian eggs are safe - we can trust them," Lusi stated.

Consumer groups have called on the Italian government to reveal the companies and food chain that produced the Fipronil tainted products, as well as their final destinations and to carry out nationwide testing.

Poultry farms in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and France have been shut down due to Fipronil use while the UK, Sweden, Austria, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Denmark, Switzerland and Hong Kong have received contaminated eggs.

Fipronil can damage people's kidneys, liver and thyroid glands if eaten in large quantities and is banned for use on animals destined for the food industry.

However, food standards agencies are playing down the risks for anyone who has already eaten the tainted eggs or egg products.

Millions of eggs and items containing eggs have been withdrawn from sale in several EU countries.

--IANS/AKI

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