Eggs And Poultry On Agenda Again In Brussels

29 September 2010
That some 83 million eggs each day will be effectively illegal across the EU by January 2012 was confirmed today in the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee in a presentation from egg producer organisations.
This issue, as well as the welfare of hens, was again the subject of much bad tempered debate, with MEPs savaging a remarkable intransigence on the part of the European Commission to ensure compliance across the EU with higher animal welfare standards agreed to almost a decade ago, but which a number of producers have been unable or unwilling to invest to meet in time.  Scottish and UK producers have invested, and are well on track to meet the deadline but, should an extension be granted for other producers, they risk being undermined by cheaper imports from other EU countries, raising fears of a repetition of the situation the pig sector faced years ago.
 
Smith declared himself opposed to destroying the eggs and poultry meat, which remains an option under the legislation, but committed himself to a clear grading system to identify the then illegal product, and an intra-community ban on products from conventional, i.e. battery, cages.  He also questioned the Commission representative as to why the European Commission appears so remarkably reticent to contemplate the scale of the problem given the Agriculture Committee is most supportive of tougher action.
 
Speaking after the meeting, Smith said:
 
"Again this was a bizarre meeting, with the Commission representative - I'm sure a personable enough individual - remarkably unruffled by the fact that a third of egg production across the EU will effectively be illegal in 14 months time.

"We, as legislators, are then faced with an unappealing prospect: either to junk millions of tonnes of food, which would be unconscionable, or to, in effect, bend the rules for tardy producers.  The idea of destroying food appals me, but to avoid moral hazard I think it is logical and sensible to bring in a new system to clearly identify such product, and to stop such product leaving the country of production.  
 
"This is hardly ideal, but would put a bit of impetus into those countries that have not been able to invest, while respecting the law itself, and not undermining those who have invested to meet the higher animal welfare standards the Commission, the Parliament, and most of all our consumers, all want to see.
 
"The Commission is not working on this urgently enough and while, of course, it is complicated and, of course, a number of states are putting in some heavy lobbying for a consequence-free extension, if we are to be taken seriously then we cannot allow this to happen.
 
"The decision today to bring this to the floor of the Parliament and oblige the Commissioners for Health and Agriculture to answer in person proves that we're serious.  In the interests of fairness we cannot let this one rest."