Fears about contamination of eggs with fipronyl or supplements with magnesium stearate

Fears about contamination of eggs or supplements

In the past week of early June, a lot of fear was placed in the heart of the public of both Dutch, German and French customers, when officials from the National Food Safety Board announced eggs had to be destroyed due to contamination with a banned substance, called fipronyl.
The reason this happened, is that fipronyl is an amazingly effective insecticide that was perfectly legal for use in stables where egg laying poultry live. This insecticide was however banned from January 1 onwards for use on animals in the food chain, with the main reason behind the ban being its toxicity to bees.
On household pets, use is still not banned, and almost anyone who has a cat or dog whom (s)he wants to protect against fleas or lice, will most likely have been in touch with fipronyl.
We checked for ourselves and saw a vial contains 50mg of fipronyl, while 2 vials (as recommended for a large-sized cat) contains 100mg .

By comparison, the dose of fipronyl that was allowed for eggs is 0,005 mg/kg. A regular sized egg is just over 50g , so 0,00025 mg (or 0,25microgram) is what is allowed in 1 egg.
The allowable dose is based on toxicity levels for adults, which is 0,009mg/kg (or 9microgram/kg) body weight (BW)
This translates to 0,54 mg for a 60kg adult of 0,14mg for a 15kg child.
Since eggs are a daily staple for some of us, toxicologists also use an acceptable daily intake as a risk factor : this is 45x as low as a toxic dose  0,0002 mg/kg BW (0,2microgram/kg)

This means that the maximum allowed dose of 0,25 microgram for one 50g egg is the same as the maximum allowed dose for 1 kg of human being.
Say you're an adult of 70kg, you'd be able to pull off eating 70 eggs without risking your health! That is, with fipronyl.. we doubt you'd be able to eat as many, due to indigestion!

When you realize all of this, the entire process around the massive recall of affected eggs, eggs being destryed and egg-laying hens being slaughtered, seems entirely out of proportion, never mind refusing to eat eggs that were never contaminated in the first place.
Especially considering that whenever you are petting your cat or when you aren't thoroughly cleaning hands after using fipronyl on them, you ingest a thousandfold the amount of what you are now afraid to eat.

We are not condoning the use of banned substances, but we do think there are different reasons why you shouldn't consume eggs every day. And no, it's not the cholesterol either!

Nor is it salmonella, as when you work hygienically and cook your eggs until well done, you are safe.
The major problem is a risk for allergies. Allergies to whatever we touch or consume on a daily basis are very common. The risk to develop an allergy to eggs when you eat (many) of them everyday is a real danger too.
It would truly be a big pity when you'd become allergic to something as healthy and tasty as eggs: they are a rich source of vitamins, healthy fats (as choline), antioxidants (lutein/zeaxanthin), but above all a cheap protein source.

We can conclude how perceived danger is often very different from the real danger that is not acknowledged.

In a similar vein we are equally sad to see a very often used filler in nutritional supplements being vilified. We are speaking of magnesium stearate. How it came about is difficult to say, but it is a very real nuisance. A nuisance because magnesium stearate is a very common ingredient that is necessary to make sure a capsule or tablet is filled evenly and works as a 'lubricant' to prevents wear and tear in machines that fill capsules and tablets.  
Therefore we share what our main supplier Jarrow Formulas has to say about this topic:

"The Great Magnesium Stearate Debate: Clearing up the Misconceptions"

Just a quick glance at the ingredient list of virtually any bottle of dietary supplements or medicines in your home and you’re sure to find at least one that includes magnesium stearate. One of the most common capsule and tablet filling agents in use today, magnesium stearate has recently been the source of a great debate in the supplement world. Claims that it decreases absorption in the digestive tract and may even be unsafe for human consumption have been made by various individuals and companies, stirring up uncertainty and skepticism for some. However, an examination of the science behind the sensationalism shows the arguments are based upon misconceptions that are quickly dismantled by a close look at the facts.

What is magnesium stearate?

Often used as a filler in the manufacture of encapsulated supplements, magnesium stearate is frequently chosen for its lubricating effects. As a “flow agent” it prevents the active ingredients used in supplements from sticking to equipment during encapsulation. Actually a form of chelated magnesium, magnesium stearate is similar to other chelated forms of minerals (such as magnesium ascorbate, magnesium citrate, etc.) in that it is a stable, neutral compound comprised of a mineral and a vegetable-sourced acid. Stearic acid is the most common of the long-chained fatty acids and found in many commonly consumed foods including vegetable and animal oils, beef fat, cocoa butter–and even infant formula.

Magnesium stearate has GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status in U.S. and in most of the world.

Although some have questioned its safety for consumption, a look at the scientific data from animal studies shows magnesium stearate to be totally safe even at a daily intake of 2.5g/kg bodyweight. In addition, an estimated 5% magnesium stearate in the diet is within it’s “no observed adverse effects level” (NOAEL). Therefore, one can rest assured that the minute 10-50 mg of magnesium stearate found in some supplements poses no safety concern. In fact, a person would need to at least consume 1,000 times the amount of magnesium stearate found in a supplement to come close the most cautious known safety level.

Not only is it safe, it’s even been shown to offer health benefits.

Though stearates are the most prominent saturated fat in the human diet, they do not pose the risks to heart health that are commonly associated with other forms of saturated fat. Most people consume several grams per day of stearates from common food sources, as they are a natural part of every type of animal or vegetable fat. Furthermore, controlled human clinical trials have actually shown that stearic acid might benefit cardiovascular health. In one such study, stearic acid improved thrombogenic and atherogenic risk factor profiles in healthy males, and a 2005 study on humans found stearic acid is just as safe as the unsaturated ingredients oleic and linoleic acid, fatty acids consumed by most people in oils eaten every day.

Magnesium stearate has no impact on the bioavailability of nutrients.

One of the main arguments against magnesium stearate is that it prevents the absorption of the nutrients with which it is delivered. Although research has shown that magnesium stearate can affect the time it takes for active ingredients in tablets to be released, unless it is a major component of a supplement and not just a flowing agent, it has not been found to reduce the overall bioavailability of nutrients.
Technically a salt which contains approximately 96% stearic acid and 4% is magnesium, magnesium stearate does not have the effect of coating the intestinal lining or affecting the bioavailability of nutrients, as some have claimed. In fact, not only do stearates not coat the G.I. tract, they are actually well absorbed and may even discourage the development of some unwanted cellular biofilms.

What about claims that it affects cellular integrity and suppresses immunity?

Claims that magnesium stearate lowers immunity were based upon a few in vitro and animal studies, whose findings were inaccurately used to draw conclusions about its effects in humans. Specifically, the findings of the cell culture study that stated that magnesium stearate leads to cell membrane damage have no implications for its use in supplements and food, as any supplement applied in sufficient quantity in a cell culture in-vitro will have toxic effects.
In addition, a second study that purported magnesium stearate to be toxic to immune T cells was performed on mice, animals that lack the delta-9 desaturase enzyme that converts stearic acid into the commonly consumed, oleic acid. Therefore, while mouse T-cells may become toxic from high levels of stearic acid, these results are irrelevant to human immunity, since human cells have the delta-9 desaturase enzyme that converts stearic acid to oleic acid. So once again, magnesium stearate poses no viable threat to immune health or health overall.

In conclusion, despite the concerns voiced by some individuals and companies that magnesium stearate may not be safe, a review of the real scientific data on this common ingredient clearly shows that the arguments against magnesium stearate simply don’t hold water, quelling any concerns about this long and commonly used filler.


We hope to have been able to take away some of the fears that you may have about both eggs and magnesium stearate.
However, in case you want to give supplements to people who are either too young, too fearful, too sick or too old to swallow tablets (some tablets are even hard for non fearful people) , there are quite a few products available in different forms: powders, liquids, chewable tablets, candy-like gummies or even sprays!

Also, some companies have given in to consumers' wishes and replaced magnesium stearate with different fillers, like rice starch that seem to work reasonably well.
The downside is still an increased wear and tear to machines, resulting in earlier replacement and therefore higher cost price.

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