Food manufacturers and food service companies are being urged to commit to British Lion eggs and egg products to make sure they do not include illegal imports once the EU ban of conventional cages takes effect in January 2012.
To drive the message home, the British Egg Information Service has launched a new campaign – The Clock is Ticking – to remind customers that time is limited before the new legislation is introduced.
It will be a multi-faceted campaign, including one-to-one briefings with customers, a dedicated website, mailshots and trade press advertising.
Speaking at the campaign launch in London, Mark Williams,British Egg Industry Council chief executive, explained that 29% of the EU laying flock was expected to be in conventional cages beyond the 1 January 2012 deadline.
They would be producing some 83m illegal eggs a day and, despite intensive industry lobbying, it was still unclear what would happen to them. The danger was that they would find their way onto the commercial market without any separate means of identification.
The UK currently imports about 13% of its shell eggs and 30% of egg products. “There is a real concern that many of these imports will not meet the required standards. The impact is likely to be greatest in the egg products market, where traceability is more difficult.”
To make sure they do not unwittingly use illegal egg, food manufacturers and food service companies should secure a supply of British Lion eggs and egg products in good time, said Ian Jones, vice-chairman of British Lion Egg Processors.
It was possible there could even be a shortage of legal eggs. Egg production could not be turned on overnight, so it was important buyers planned their 2012 production needs now. “If they leave it to the end of the year, it will be too late.”
The campaign has won the backing of the NFU. Union president Peter Kendall said at the campaign launch that all egg consumers should support British producers who had “put their businesses on the line” by investing £400m to convert to enriched cages ahead of the ban.
Failure to do so could see the UK egg sector going the same way as the pig sector, which has halved in size since the government imposed a unilateral ban on stalls and tethers in the 1990s.
“My key message (to egg buyers) is don’t sell us down the river by buying from non-compliant sources. One way this can be achieved is by purchasing Lion eggs and egg products.”