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HEALTH

French government publishes first list of products linked to contaminated eggs

The French Agricultural Ministry has released its first list of products linked to the tainted egg scandal.

French government publishes first list of products linked to contaminated eggs
A notice about the egg scandal on display in a Lille supermarket. Photo: AFP

The products have all been withdrawn from sale, after previously being sold by several major supermarket chains including Carrefour, Monoprix, Casino, and Franprix.

So far, the list comprises 17 kinds of packaged waffles by different brands.

They were all found to contain traces of the insecticide fipronil, a chemical used to get rid of fleas, lice and ticks from farm livestock, banned by the European Union from use in the food industry.

The ministry said the list was not comprehensive and further products may be added if confirmed to contain the chemical.

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Tainted eggs scandal spreads to FranceAFP

All the waffles contained levels of fipronil above the recommended limit, but at present, the products “do not present a risk to the consumer”, the ministry said in a statement.

It added that it would publish a second list, of products withdrawn from sale and recalled from customers, if any products with sufficiently high levels of fipronil were discovered.

The ministry compiled the list using information provided by suppliers and from official controls carried out by French and foreign authorities.

Investigations have been opened in Belgium and the Netherlands, where the affected eggs were hatched, in order to determine criminal responsibility. In total, more than 200 farms across the two countries were contaminated after the premises were disinfected using fipronil-containing products. 

Since the scandal was discovered in late July, millions of eggs have been removed from supermarket shelves across Europe, with at least 17 countries affected.

The French agriculture ministry also said that on July 28th a poultry farm at Pas-de-Calais in northern France was put under surveillance after the farmer told authorities a Belgian supplier had provided him with the tainted product in question.

The ministry was carrying out testing at the farm, but said none of its eggs had been sent to market.

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FOOD & DRINK

Reader question: Exactly how many different types of cheese are there in France?

One thing everyone can agree on is that France has a lot of cheese - but exactly how many French fromages exist?

Reader question: Exactly how many different types of cheese are there in France?

Question: I often see a quote from Charles de Gaulle talking about ‘246 different types of cheese’, but other articles say there are 600 or even 1,000 different types of cheese and some people say there are just eight types – how many different cheeses are there in France?

A great question on a subject dear to French hearts – cheese.

But it’s one that doesn’t have a simple answer.

Charles de Gaulle did indeed famously say “How can anyone govern a country with 246 different types of cheese”, but even in 1962 when he uttered the exasperated phrase, it was probably an under-estimate.

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The issue is how you define ‘different’ types of cheese, and unsurprisingly France has a complicated system for designating cheeses.

Let’s start with the eight – there are indeed eight cheese ‘families’ and all of France’s many cheeses can be categorised as one of;

  • Fresh cheese, such as cottage cheese or the soft white fromage blanc
  • Soft ripened cheese, such as Camembert or Brie
  • Soft ripened cheese with a washed rind, such as l’Epoisses or Pont l’Eveque
  • Unpasturised hard cheese such as Reblochon or saint Nectaire
  • Pasturised hard cheese such as Emmental or Comté
  • Blue cheese such as Roquefort 
  • Goat’s cheese
  • Melted or mixed cheese such as Cancaillot

But there are lots of different types of, for example, goat’s cheese.

And here’s where it gets complicated, for two reasons.

The first is that new varieties of cheese are constantly being invented by enterprising cheesemakers (including some which come about by accident, such as le confiné which was created in 2020).

The second is about labelling, geography and protected status.

France operates a system known as Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC or its European equivalent AOP) to designate food products that can only be made in a certain area.

As cheese is an artisan product, quite a lot of different cheese are covered by this – for example a blue sheep’s milk cheese is only Roquefort if it’s been aged in the caves in the village of Roquefort.

There are 63 listed AOC cheeses in France, but many more varieties that don’t have this protected status.

These include generic cheese types such as BabyBel and other cheeses that are foreign in origin but made in France (such as Emmental).

But sometimes there are both AOC and non-AOC versions of a single cheese – a good example of this is Camembert.

AOC Camembert must be made in Normandy by farmers who have to abide by strict rules covering location, milk type and even what their cows eat.

Factory-produced Camembert, however, doesn’t stick to these rules and therefore doesn’t have the AOC label. Is it therefore the same cheese? They’re both called Camembert but the artisan producers of Normandy will tell you – at some length if you let them – that their product is a totally different thing to the mass-produced offering.

There are also examples of local cheeses that are made to essentially the same recipe but have different names depending on where they are produced – sometimes even being on opposite sides of the same Alpine valley is enough to make it two nominally different cheeses.

All of which is to say that guessing is difficult!

Most estimates range from between 600 to 1,600, with cheese experts generally saying there are about 1,000 different varieties. 

So bonne dégustation!

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