Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Egg stamping and Food Safety Regulations

The recent public fuss in Tasmania about compliance with national standards for egg production is really quite mindless.

There has been the CWA shrieking that it sells 100 dozen eggs a week at one of its stores (using second hand cartons) and why shouldn't it be allowed to keep doing this. Backyarders who sell surplus eggs from their homes or on roadside stalls say they shouldn't be forced to comply with food safety and identification regulations.

What it means of course is that they don't want to comply with the same food safety conditions that all genuine egg farmers are required to meet. How can they think that is fair?

Jan Davis the CEO of the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association has no problem with enforcing reasonable food safety standards – for eggs or for anything else. She remains to be convinced that stamping eggs, as is required under the new national standard, is a reasonable response to the level of risk to consumers from contaminated eggs. “But” as she says “that is the national standard, so we have to comply”.

The clamour from some small producers and people supplying market stalls to be exempt from these new regulations is not logical. If the health risks posed by potentially contaminated eggs are such that regulation is deemed to be necessary; then that risk is the same for all eggs, and the same regulations should apply to all egg producers. If some eggs can be exempt, then the regulations are really not necessary for any eggs.

Egg substitution is a significant problem and the stamping of eggs with a farm identification code will help to eliminate that. Many of the eggs sold at markets and roadside stalls are not the produce of the person selling them. They can be bought from dubious sources and passed-off as 'free range'.

Egg producers need a level playing field – otherwise the competition is unfair. Why should some egg sellers be allowed to get away with not following food safety procedures, using second hand cartons, not labelling their cartons and not stamping their eggs to show the origin of the product?

If a shop selling 100 dozen eggs a week is exempt from these regulations, (even if it is a CWA shop) there is no point in introducing the standards at all.

People with chooks who want to give away surplus eggs to neighbours and friends don't need to comply with the standards - but everyone who sells eggs should be required to follow the same processes and procedures as the rest of us.

The stamping of eggs need not involve significant costs. For small producers, hand stampers are readily available. 

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