Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Egg stamping delayed in Victoria

The Victorian Government is giving egg producers two extra years before they have to comply with new Australia-wide egg- stamping requirements.

The delay has been welcomed by some egg producers but is condemned by others who saw the introduction of stamping as a good way to provide real traceability for eggs. It could help to restore confidence in an industry which has become dominated by shonky operators.

One of the arguments which some producers use is that the units cost around $30 000. But that is for sophisticated automatic ink jet systems installed on grading and packing machines. Simple 30 egg stampers are available at minimal cost to stamp a tray of eggs at a time, stampers for six at a time can be bought and individual stampers are available for very small operators.

The introduction of egg stamping will help make all eggs traceable through the supply chain - another step in eliminating egg substitution. Most egg producers support stamping - as long as it applies to everyone who sells eggs and is not just confined to those of us who do things properly! Backyarders generally have no understanding of food safety issues and are a real danger to the health of consumers. If they sell eggs, they should have to comply with the same regulations as the rest of us.

Victorian Agriculture and Food Security Minister Peter Walsh said the delay would help Victorian farmers.

"It would give them more time to plan for and install the costly equipment needed to apply an identification stamp to every single egg, as mandated under new national food standards." Mr Walsh said.

He announced the special measure as part of the Primary Industries and Food Legislation Amendment Bill 2012 currently before Parliament.

"Whole supply chain food safety traceability of eggs from the farm to the kitchen is already provided by labels on cartons," Mr Walsh said.

"In the kitchen, a carton will provide greater traceback than rummaging in the garbage sorting through cracked egg shells." The legislation provides for the implementation of the new national egg food safety standards in Victoria.

But there is a two-year exemption from the requirement for farmers to individually stamp their property identification details on each egg shell.

"Asking farmers to purchase new eggshell-inking machines is a significant cost imposition with no proof it will improve food safety," Mr Walsh said.

There is still no indication how the actual identification mark will be determined for each farm. For example will members of the Free Range Farmers Association be allowed to use the Association logo and their farm roll number? Or will the Government allocate a number to each farm?

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