22 October 2017 | Online since 2003

25 January 2012

Director of Policy report - 24th January 2012

Farming Minister Jim Paice announced in Brussels on 10 January that 32 caged production sites in the UK are not compliant with the EU’s Welfare of laying hens Directive. Reports in the media about the UK’s non-compliance are a concern given the efforts by the industry to push the EU Commission, UK government, food retailers and manufacturers to ban imported non-compliant egg from other EU states.

The announcement of possible infringement proceedings being taken by the EU against the UK government for non-compliance coincides with BEIC taking the first steps in a Judicial Review against Defra for its actions in not banning non-compliant imports. In both cases, Defra will be receiving letters as a first step of both legal actions, the timing of which cannot be helpful to the case for Judicial Review. Defra is confident that the non-compliant units, which it claims houses 423,000 birds, will be depopulated by February and once that is done the industry can focus again on non-compliant imports. It is hoped that the Commission will drop infringement proceeding, leading to fines, as soon as Defra can confirm that we are compliant with the Directive.

Including the UK, 15 EU states reported to the EU’s Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health that they had non-compliant producers. These states were Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, UK, Latvia, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Romania. Some of these countries, such as Italy and Belgium, admit to having 30% of illegal production. The Commission estimates that 14.3% of EU production (47 million hens) is currently illegal.

AHVLA is – quite rightly - concentrating on closing down illegal production in the UK first before dealing with illegal imports. Working with local authorities, prosecutions will be enforced depending on the mitigating circumstances at the site concerned. After 21 January UV checks on imported egg will take place in earnest and I hope to witness these checks in person with local inspectors.

While the Member State declarations made at the Brussels meeting on 10 January were embarrassing for the UK egg industry, it did at least provide data on all the illegal sites across Europe. So AHVLA now has a full list of every illegal production site and contact details in the Member State concerned so that it can easily cross-check against suspect shipments being imported into the UK.

Alongside the Judicial Review, there are many other initiatives which are being considered by the Chairman and your Council to assist in identifying and prosecuting those importing and using non-compliant egg. In a fast moving political environment, it is important that decisions made on naming and shaming, or rewarding those providing information on illegal imports, are carefully considered. I will report on these initiatives in more detail on the website after the 24 January Council.


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