EU health commissioner John Dalli has criticised some member states for their relaxed approach to the impending conventional cage ban and hinted that he may introduce an intra-community trade ban on illegal eggs.
Addressing EU agriculture ministers in Brussels, he criticised several member states for their failure to provide the commission with proper information on what progress they had made in getting rid of conventional cages.
“The information submitted contains large gaps of information,” he later told reporters. “We cannot gain a realistic picture of the state of enforcement.”
Mr Dali gave member states until 1 April to come up with the required data.
Polish minister Marek Sawicki raised the issue of the laying hen regulations under “any other business” and requested a delay in the 1 January 2012 implementation date for member states which had joined the EU after the Directive was approved in 1999.
But Mr Dali indicated that the EU Commission would stick to the deadline, to protect those producers who had invested in new systems and to maintain consumer confidence. “We must avoid market distortions from the circulation of illegally produced eggs,” he added.
UK ministers were supported by their French, German, Spanish and Dutch counterparts in calling for the conventional cage ban to come in on time.
“The UK industry has worked hard and made significant investments to convert out of battery cages ahead of the European deadline – so it wouldn’t be fair to them to have to compete with eggs from other European countries that haven’t converted,” said DEFRA secretary Caroline Spelman.
But agriculture council president, Hungarian minister Sandor Fazekas, indicated he was willing to consider “temporary measures” for member states struggling to meet the deadline.
*• The EU Commission will launch a debate this autumn with a view to reintroducing meat-and-bonemeal into pig and poultry rations. Agriculture ministers discussed the issue at their February council and there was wide support for the idea, so long as there was proper segregation in feed mills and reliable tests to ensure there was no cross-contamination.