Premier signs egg pledge as Whitehall ‘chickens out’

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Egg products Egg Food

Eggasperating: the government is powerless to prevent egg imports which do not comply with new welfare rules
Eggasperating: the government is powerless to prevent egg imports which do not comply with new welfare rules
The UK’s biggest food firm Premier Foods has pledged to source only eggs and egg products which comply with new EU welfare rules, which come into force next month, as the government was accused of ‘chickening out’ on its promise to protect UK producers.

Ian Bowles, head of sustainability at Premier Foods, said: “We are absolutely confident in the quality of, and provenance of, all the eggs used as ingredients in our products. The British Lion and ​[the Dutch] KAT certification schemes also ensure that the welfare of hens that the eggs we use is protected.”

All UK-sourced eggs are guaranteed fully traceable and bear the British Lion Quality Mark. This ensures all eggs are produced to the highest standards for free-range and barn egg production.

European rivals

Meanwhile, UK egg producers, which have spent about £400M upgrading their facilities, said they risk being undercut by European rivals which have not made the same commitment.

But the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) confirmed yesterday (December 6) that government would be unable to ban egg imports which do not comply with the new welfare legislation.

Food minister James Paice said: "The government has thoroughly investigated the possibility of bringing in a UK ban on all imports of egg and egg products produced in conventional cages in other Member States.

"However, given the very significant legal and financial implications, coupled with practical difficulties in enforcing it, it is not a realistic option."

Egg producers reacted angrily to what some regarded as a government U-turn.

The British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) has accused the government of “chickening out”. ​Mark Williams, BEIC chief executive, said: “The UK egg industry feels totally let down by the government. While we have received repeated platitudes of support from DEFRA​, it has failed to back these up with any real action.

“We need to see a complete ban on any illegally produced eggs, egg products and foods containing illegal eggs from 1 January 2012. That way, British consumers will know exactly what they are getting. Our legal advice has confirmed that the UK government is able to enforce UK and EU law by banning illegal eggs and egg products – so why have they chickened out?”

‘Bitterly disappointed’

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said its members would be “bitterly disappointed”,​ that the​government had failed to take tougher action.

NFU poultry board chairman Charles Bourns said:“We are concerned that although the government has repeatedly pledged its support for the industry, it cannot prohibit the use of illegal egg products and food manufactured from such products.

“Although we are pleased to see the support of some UK retailers and food manufacturers on this, there are still a number of companies who have yet to make this commitment.”

Last month, Paice said: We need to protect producers across the EU who will have complied with the ban from unfair competition from those who fail to comply.

“It is over a year since we first told the Commission that it was quite obvious that a number of countries would not be able to comply in time.”

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1 comment

Imported eggs

Posted by jgornall,

Congratulations to Premier Foods for supporting British egg producers.

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