DEFRA told FoodManufacture.co.uk that just 1% of UK egg producers were still using the illegal cages despite the EU ban, which came into force on January 1.
A spokesman for DEFRA said: “The level of non-compliance in the UK is very low and latest figures show it to be just 1% of the total UK flock.
“By February 1 we expect that these producers will have stopped using these battery cages or we will have issued legal notices and referred the producers to the local council who will consider prosecution.”
DEFRA also said it was “disappointing” that some producers had not made the switch and highlighted the £400M already spent by the industry to meet the new standards.
The British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) echoed DEFRA’s concern and said it was “appalled” that some producers had still failed to make the switch.
Andrew Parker, BEIC chairman, said: “We are disgusted that these few producers are still using battery cages. It is illegal and grossly unfair on the vast majority of UK producers who have invested money in ensuring that they meet the new standards on time.
“We urge the enforcement authorities to take immediate action against any non-compliant producer.”
Despite the large compliance rate among UK producers, it is still feared that many European producers are continuing to flaunt the ban, resulting in illegal eggs being imported to and sold in the UK.
There are still 50M hens housed in battery cages, according to the BEIC. They produce up to 40M eggs a day in EU member states, including Italy, Spain and Poland, according to the BEIC.
Earlier this month, the BEIC took the first steps towards launching a judicial review to address the issue. It has asked DEFRA for a more comprehensive explanation of the government’s decision not to ban the imports.
The National Farmers Union (NFU) responded to the import problem by compiling a “good egg” list, which includes the names of all the firms that are fully compliant with EU legislation.
The NFU said it was “extremely concerned” about the issue and said it was pleasedthat so many UK firms were supporting the industry.
Food firms have welcomed the news and confirmed their backing for the list, which includes many UK manufacturers, including Premier Foods, Northern Foods and Associated British Foods.
The Food and Drink Federation told FoodManufacture.co.uk that all of its members were on the list and said it was pleased that the concerns had been raised.