The current scandal surrounding contaminated eggs from Dutch farms confirms, according to some commentators, that our food system is broken and dangerous - and we’re all to blame as consumers because we’re addicted to cheap food. Nonsense.

The scandal arose because 180 Dutch poultry farms had bought birds from a supplier that was using a pesticide called fipronil to kill lice on the birds. The hens absorbed the pesticide and trace amounts of it ended up in the eggs they produced. Fipronil is banned for use in farmed animals because it is ‘moderately toxic’ to humans, though it is used in pets as a preventative against fleas and other pests. (It is also apparently effective against the best-named pest I’ve ever come across, the rasberry crazy ant.) In cases of acute poisoning, the Dutch food standards agency says it can cause ‘nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dizziness, and epileptic seizures’ and there are also risks to the kidneys, liver and thyroid glands, according to the World Health Organization. But as with many other pesticides, it is chosen because it is lethal to pests but relatively safe for humans and mammals.

Dutch farms are enormously successful exporters of eggs and, as a result, these fipronil-contaminated eggs have cropped up all over Europe. Current estimates suggest 700,000 such eggs were imported into the UK to be used in prepared salads, sandwiches and mayonnaise sold by UK supermarkets, including Waitrose (all free-range, of course), Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons.

As ever, the key is in the old adage, ‘the dose makes the poison’. Firstly, no individual eggs have been found to contain hazardous levels of fipronil. German estimates suggest that an individual would have to eat seven contaminated eggs per day to exceed the safety limit for fipronil. In turn, the safety limit is well below any level actually known to cause harm. Secondly, 700,000 eggs might sound a lot, but that’s less than 0.006 per cent of the 12.6 billion eggs consumed in the UK annually.

So, this scandal amounts to a tiny percentage of our eggs contaminated with harmless amounts of a pesticide. There are some questions that might well be worth answering - like why the Dutch authorities, having discovered the problem as far back as November, didn’t contact other countries and the EU’s food safety agency about it. But some commentators - most obviously over at the Guardian, believe this is just the latest scandal that demonstrates the inherent problems in our food system.

So eco-columnist Lucy Siegle claims that as a result of the current scare, ‘the humble egg became a cypher for a globalised food system where the opportunity for spectacular disaster is never far away’. An editorial argues that the egg scare is ‘a cautionary tale of greed, squeezed suppliers, lax regulation and underfunded safeguarding’.

This is bizarre. Just take a moment to consider that figure for the number of eggs consumed each year in the UK: 12.6 billion. The sheer scale of this level of production is mind boggling. Yet the vast majority of those eggs are absolutely safe to eat. This ‘broken’ food system has made shortages almost unheard of, not just of food in general, but even of very specific foodstuffs. A shortage of courgettes earlier this year due to poor weather in Spain provoked widespread discussion and handwringing, with middle-class consumers no doubt apoplectic about the increased cost of making ratatouille. The fact that the lack of availability of a non-essential type of food could become national news illustrates how rarely it happens these days.

Moreover, the relative cost of food remains low. Figures from the Office for National Statistics earlier this year suggest the average UK household spends just 11 per cent of its income on food and non-alcoholic drinks - even less than the 13 per cent spent on ‘recreation and culture’ and not much more than that spent on ‘restaurants and hotels’ (nine per cent). For lower-income households, the proportion is considerably higher, but nonetheless, the food system that is apparently never far away from a ‘disaster’ is actually providing a greater range of foods with high levels of food safety more cheaply and more conveniently than at any time in human history.

For those who would argue that we should spend more on food or leave ourselves open to food fakery - like the horsemeat scandal - should really be asking about more common and more right-on forms of fraud. Why is organic food worth paying so much more for? Is it safer? Hardly, given that the most devastating outbreak of E.Coli poisoning in recent years (in Germany in 2011) was caused by organic beansprouts, sickening nearly 4,000 people and killing 53 of them. Is it more nutritious? Study after study has found little or no difference in nutritional value between ‘conventional’ and organic foods. Is it kinder to the environment? Organic production results in considerably lower yields for most kinds of food, and therefore demands ploughing up far more land than conventional production. What’s eco-friendly about that? Yet hardly anyone points to organic food as a scam perpetrated on consumers.

Similar concerns could be highlighted about the obsessions with small-scale production, local sourcing and terms like ‘free range’, none of which are any guarantee of safety, quality or low environmental impact. These labels are slapped on foods to jemmy more cash out of the pockets of buyers with little real evidence that they indicate something better than the regular food bought from big supermarkets. Who are the real fraudsters?

Large-scale, globalised food production has been a boon. Overblown ‘scandals’ like that surrounding eggs from the Netherlands is being used by largely well-off critics to push forms of food production that suit their own ideologies and prejudices rather than the needs of consumers.