The UK government’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has recommended a clampdown on illegal eggs and egg products beginning in 2012.
The select committee has published recommendations following its enquiry on the implications of the Welfare of Laying Hens Directive for the egg industry. It found that the UK egg industry will be at a competitive disadvantage if non-compliant conventional cage producers in other EU member states are able to export shell eggs and egg products after Jan. 1, 2012, when enriched colony cages will be a statutory minimum across Europe.
The UK’s National Farmers' Union has raised concerns that farmers in several member states will have failed to upgrade their cages in time, and has lobbied for an intra-community trade ban. The EFRA committee has criticized the European Commission’s complacency over the level of compliance with the directive and has supported calls for an intra-community trade ban on the export of shell eggs and egg products from non-compliant producers.
“British egg farmers have spent around GBP400 million (US$648 million) on upgrading their farms to meet these new standards and there is a real threat that all this effort could be for nothing if they run the risk of being undercut by cheap imports from countries which are still producing eggs in lower welfare systems," said NFU board chairman Charles Bourns. "We will continue to work with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and to lobby the Commission to ensure this does not happen.”