15 September 1997
Lobby group henpecks Tesco over cages

By Boyd Champness

A LAST-MINUTE decision by leading supermarket chain Tesco to change the labelling on its egg containers has prevented a potentially embarrassing situation.

Animal welfare group Compassion In World Farming (CIWF) was poised to send a man in a hen-suit to selected Tesco outlets today to tackle store managers over the chains policy on egg labelling.

CIWF claims that Tescos use of the words “Fresh” or “Farm Fresh” on containers packed with eggs from battery-caged birds is misleading. The group says many customers purchase these eggs believing they come from free-range farms.

But Tesco told CIWF today to “call off the hen” after it announced that it would change the wording on its egg containers to pacify the lobby group.

Tesco corporate affairs manager David Sawday said he was “annoyed” by CIWFs actions because the supermarket chain had been holding meetings with the lobby group on this particular issue. He said Tesco had already decided to change its wording for battery eggs and that CIWF was only pulling the stunt for its own political gain.

“Obviously its important to talk to these people [CIWF]. But whats the point of having long, constructive dialogue with a pressure group when they go public when they feel like it. They gave us no warning that they were going to do this,” Mr Sawday said.

Mr Sawday said Tesco would now introduce labelling similar to that used by other supermarket chains. The Co-op and Safeway, for example, use the term “Eggs From Caged Hens” on battery egg boxes. The new boxes should be in Tesco stores within the next four weeks.

A poll conducted by CIWF showed that Tescos labelling system was confusing for customers. Battery eggs labelled “Fresh Eggs” or “Farm Fresh Eggs” were mistakenly thought to be from free-range hens by 34% and 37% of the British public respectively.

The poll also revealed that 88% of those interviewed believed labelling laws should be changed, forcing supermarkets to stipulate where their eggs are sourced.

CIWF campaigns director Philip Lymbery said: “The public clearly want the full facts so they can make up their own minds on whether to buy kinder eggs. Tesco has a duty to provide clear, factual labelling, spelling out the whole truth behind battery eggs.”

CIWF is campaigning for an EU-wide ban on the use of battery cages, the European Commission is currently conducting a review into the cages.