30 November 2006 | Antony Barton
Supermarkets are clamping down on suppliers to address the problem of falsely labelled eggs. The move follows an investigation by the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) into the alleged practice.
It is focusing on the collection and supply of eggs, not the original production, and the department has confirmed that incorrectly labelled produce has been found.
A Defra spokesman said incorrectly labelled eggs were being sold in the retail sector, including supermarkets, and the fraud had affected up to 30 million eggs.
When contacted about the issue, a spokesman for Somerfield told SM a technical team conducted frequent visits to suppliers and producers to monitor production methods and take egg samples for analysis at various stages of the supply chain. Rival chains conducted similar checks, the spokesman added.
Food stores Iceland and Tesco confirmed examinations of supplies ensured they met quality standards, and that incorrectly labelled eggs would never enter supplies.
Somerfield's spokesman admitted the company would switch to selling French free-range eggs in a fortnight, but denied this was because of Defra's probe. The supermarket is one of the only food retailers to enter a contract for British free-range egg supply that allows farmers to invest accordingly. In spite of this, the suppliers said they could acquire only 55 to 60 per cent of the eggs from UK sources, and would need to buy the rest from France.
Somerfield has appealed to UK Lion egg producers to come forward if they can offer a consistent supply.