After reports emerged claiming caged eggs were being sold as free-range, Consumer New Zealand has called for the government to regulate the free-range egg industry.
The Newsroom website reported this morning that millions of caged eggs have been sold by Palace Poultry as free-range. It has been confirmed that the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is investigating.
Palace Poultry eggs have been pulled from the shelves at Countdown supermarkets as a result.
“Food quality and the integrity of the products on our shelves is paramount to us. We have removed all Palace Poultry products from our shelves as of this morning. We have been in contact with the supplier and informed them of this. Palace Poultry sold eggs to us as free-range eggs,” Countdown has advised via a statement on their website.
“Palace Poultry do not supply any of Countdown’s own brands of eggs,” Countdown said.
Jessica Wilson, spokeswoman for Consumer New Zealand, said more scrutiny was needed either by the retailers which sold the eggs or the Ministry for Primary Industries, which should carry out certification when it undertook checks on farms.
She said in the past few years, the Palace Poultry report was the second case of eggs allegedly sold as free-range hen eggs, but were actually caged.
“Consumers need to have confidence in what they are buying.”
There was no government oversight, despite there being a number of third-party assessors who look at eggs, including the organic certification scheme and the SPCA’s Blue Tick.
The only 100 per cent independent accreditation that focuses on animal welfare in New Zealand is the SPCA Blue Tick. All eggs labelled with the SPCA blue tick adhere to strict high welfare standards and come from farms approved by the SPCA.
“Outside of those schemes there is no official government scheme.”
Wilson said for consumers worried about what they were buying, they should look to see if there was independent certification.
“If you can’t find any of those you can ask the retailer about the eggs.”
Wilson said if the eggs could not be confirmed as free-range, consumers should buy eggs elsewhere.
Palace Poultry has declined to comment.