Sunday, October 07, 2012

'Free Range' farm busted in NSW

The Sydney Daily Telegraph reported today that a western  Sydney egg farmer has been fined for labelling "barn laid eggs" as "free range" during a statewide crackdown on misleading labels.

Glensung Pty Ltd, trading as Paul Galea and Son Egg Farm in Leppington, was fined $4620, after Food Authority inspectors found the company responsible for three breaches of the NSW Food Act.

The company’s eggs are supplied predominantly wholesale to Flemington Fruit Markets and independent fruit grocers in western Sydney.

Federal regulations stipulate that free-range hens must have easy access to an outdoor area to roam while barn-laid eggs are from chooks confined to a shed.

All food businesses must comply with the NSW Food Act 2003 which makes it an offence to falsely describe products.

The state government has started a statewide inspection of the industry to check eggs were correctly labelled.

The authority this year boosted its systems for tracing eggs back to the source to ensure retailers haven’t been misled.

Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson said it was unacceptable to mislable any food product and the government will continue to protect the state’s food laws.

Over the next two years, the government will also roll out new requirements for all eggs produced in NSW to identify which farm they are from stamped on to the eggshell.

"This sends a clear message to the industry and consumers that the NSW government does not tolerate those who disobey the rules," she said.

"We have the capacity to ensure that eggs are correctly labelled in line with the national requirements and fines will he issued." Second generation egg farmer John Galea, 42, was disappointed with the decision to fine the company because the doors to Leppington barns were open and the chickens were free to "leave and go outside if they wanted to".

Mr Galea, who started working with father Paul on the eggs business when he was seven in 1977, said he would work with the authority to make sure there were bigger holes in his shed for the chickens to go outside.

"They said that’s not good enough for them so we will work with the Food Authority to make our barns suitable.

"We can’t produce enough eggs here, they sell out everyday. We mill our own grain and the eggs taste great.

"We’ve had that many dramas with the Food Authority, RSPCA and Animal Liberation, I’ll be more than happy when we can sell our land off for subdivision," he said.

NSW Farmers Egg Committee chairman Bede Burke commended the action.  He claimed "It’s only a tiny section of the entire NSW egg industry that acts dishonestly.

"The prompt action gives consumers confidence that this is a serious deterrent to producers who think they can get away with egg substitution." Mr Burke said. Unfortunately it's not 'a tiny section' of the egg industry which is acting dishonestly.

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