Eggs produced by 45 farms were found to have been tainted with banned insecticides or harmful substances exceeding permissible levels after officials completed more than 90 percent of a nationwide inspection.
The inspection began this week after health officials detected the presence of eggs tainted with fipronil, an insecticide that sparked a health scare across Europe. Traces of the banned pesticide were found Monday at a farm in Seoul's eastern satellite city of Namyangju.
The agriculture ministry launched a quick inspection of more than 1,200 farms after ordering a temporary ban on egg shipments.
As of Thursday night, 1,155 farms, or 93 percent, have been inspected, the ministry said, adding a small number of farms used banned substances such as fipronil while many farms were found to have used insecticides at permissible levels.
Ministry officials promised to finish their work on Friday so that consumers could resume the purchase of eggs from retailers and at supermarkets. More than 40 million eggs are consumed every day in South Korea.
Fipronil is commonly used to get rid of fleas, lice and ticks from animals but it is banned in Europe from use in the food industry. When eaten in large quantities it can harm kidneys, liver and thyroid glands. The insecticide has now been discovered in eggs in 17 European countries since the scandal came to light in early August.
Eggs have disappeared from school meals and army canteens pending a government investigation. Processed food companies using eggs were in trouble due to a widespread health scare among consumers.
South Korea was hit by the spread of highly pathogenic avian flu that has left a record 37 million chickens culled since it was reported first in November last year. To control prices, Seoul has eased trade restrictions to import eggs from European and other countries. The latest shipment came from Thailand.
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