• The East of England MEP, Stuart Agnew has launched a campaign to ensure that eggs bought and sold in the UK, as well as those used in food products after 1st January 2012, will be from legal sources. From that date, the EU has banned eggs produced from battery cage hens but, despite being warned many times, has failed to take any serious steps to enforce the ban or to pressure member states to prepare for it.
Mr Agnew, who is the UK Independence Party’s agriculture spokesman and a free range egg producer himself said: “I have had no choice but to launch this campaign after hearing at this late stage from the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, John Dalli, that the Commission itself is not going to rigorously enforce the ban, but merely send inspectors and threaten member states with fines. British egg producers have invested over £400 million to meet the terms of the ban but many other EU countries haven’t bothered.
“In order to protect British egg producers and consumers from illegally produced eggs, I am stepping up pressure on supermarkets to ensure that they will not be sourcing battery produced eggs after 1st January. I am also making sure that they are aware of the potential problem of illegal eggs coming into the country and/or being used in food products they are selling to British consumers.
“Fortunately, some consumers are waking up to the problem and, to date I have had nearly 400 emails on this one subject. I have replied to every one of them, supplying a list of 22 supermarket head office addresses that they should write to and I have suggested that they should also write to their local MP, to get them to pressure the Government to ensure that businesses that trade in imported eggs are made aware of the need to avoid battery produced eggs. The response has been overwhelmingly supportive of my campaign.
“This ban has been coming for thirteen years and I am disgusted that the Commission has done so little to enforce it and, worse still, is prepared to stand idly by and allow British egg producers to effectively be penalised for complying with the directive (1999/74/EC) because of their serious vulnerability to unfair competition from illegally produced eggs from elsewhere in the EU.”
Mr Agnew has also written to the 22 supermarkets himself. He has strongly urged them to support British egg producers by pro-actively preparing for the crisis coming after 1st January and to protect British consumers by ensuring that they are only supplying legally produced eggs and food products that do not contain battery eggs. He has also reminded them of their animal welfare obligations.
“One other big lesson everyone should learn from this crisis,” said Mr Agnew, “Is that if we were an independent self-governing nation, we would never have allowed ourselves to get into such a mess.”