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UK to tackle illegal eggs with UV light

Eggs in the United Kingdom will be screened with UV light as a measure to prevent illegal eggs entering the market following the implementation of new EU welfare standards in January.

Tough action will be taken to improve welfare standards and living conditions for hens and prevent eggs produced in ‘battery cages’ being sold in the UK, Agriculture Minister Jim Paice announced.

An EU ban on battery cages comes in to effect on 1 January 2012, and the UK, the EU’s sixth largest egg producer, has long been calling for a tough EU enforcement regime to ensure welfare standards are driven up and prevent producers who have not dispensed with battery cages from profiting.

To overcome the fact that no European agreement was reached on enforcement, the British government has instead been working closely with the domestic egg industry, processors, food manufacturers, the food service sector and retailers to reach a voluntary consensus that they won’t sell or use battery-farmed eggs which will help British consumers to avoid unwittingly buying them.

“It is unacceptable that after the ban on battery cages comes into effect, around 50 million hens across Europe will still remain in poor conditions,” explained Paice.

“We have all had plenty of time to make these changes, but 13 EU nations have not done so. The UK egg industry alone has spent £400million ensuring hens live in better conditions. It would be unthinkable if countries continuing to house hens in poor conditions were to profit from flouting the law.”

The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) will use ultra violet light to identify batches of eggs that were not laid in the new, more welfare friendly cages. UV light picks up small marks left in the shell immediately after it has been laid, before it hardens. Any eggs which only show a pattern of wire marks will have been laid in the old battery cages, and will not be allowed to be sold as class A (whole) eggs.

With many retailers and major food suppliers putting in place stringent traceability tests to guarantee they will not supply eggs produced from illegal conventional cages or use them as ingredients in their own brand products, it will be difficult for producers who have not complied with the EU directive to find an outlet in the UK.

“We’re taking action to protect UK consumers and the egg industry by hitting producers who flout the law where it hurts – in their pockets,” added Paice.

13 Member States are unlikely to be compliant with directive by 1 January 2012, meaning an estimated 50 million hens will still be housed in battery cages by the time the ban comes into force.

Source: Defra

Editor WorldPoultry


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    doug williams

    so if a chicken is running around outside and lays an egg on a piece of wire that producers eggs will be BANNED? geez.. the UK needs a light all right.. one to shine on the idiots who make up rules like this under the guise of "protecting the consumer' when all this really does is raise the cost of food to a people who get more poor by the day.. and face government intrusion into their lives on a basis that is absolutely frightening

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    lorna aucott

    Will this not be flawed as there are still some hens in enriched colonies that don't use the nest so UV light will not be 100% reliable?

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    Chris Roddis

    Every egg from an intensive battery cage would show wire marks, not just the odd one. Excellent method of detection.

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    Koen Laureys

    What about eggs imported from outside de European Union? Eggs are coming in from the Ukraine, south-america, the US, India, amongst other countries. In all of these countries laying hens have less space than in our old battery cages, but that seems to be no problem. Now it seems like it is a big scandal if an egg produced in a 550 cm2/bird cage in Spain is imported in the UK, but there is no problem if that same egg is produced in a 350 cm2/bird battery in the Ukra�ne.

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    The test method will not immediately confirm if the egg has been laid in a colony enriched nest box. The legislation only states that eggs must not be layed on 'wire mesh' but nothing about plastic mesh. Some producers are using plastic mesh on top of 'wire mesh' which complies with the new requirements. If the mesh lines are detected the authorities will just have to go back to member authorities to verify compliance. But that will no doubt take time.

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