WA eggs face the prospect of far tougher labelling and traceability rules, after a planned shake-up of the industry triggered by allegations a rogue operator is falsely selling eggs as free range.
Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the system of labelling and traceability “was a joke” and more discipline was needed.
“WA is the only State that doesn’t have a proper egg traceability system, there is no regulation or accessibility and we need to modernise that and introduce more discipline,” Ms MacTiernan said after meeting egg producers on Tuesday night.
“If we don’t deal with this, consumer confidence will be undermined and it could make genuine producers unviable because they can’t compete,” she said.
Commercial Egg Producers Association of WA president Ian Wilson said an industry-led committee would work with the State Government to deliver tighter standards and procedures.
He said while most eggs were stamped on farms before sale and it accurately reflected where they were laid, a weakness in the system meant the eggs could be bought from elsewhere and stamped as though produced on that farm.
Mr Wilson said better traceability standards, identifying the origin, flock and system, would also help in situations such as the recent Eastern States recalls for salmonella.
The move to tighten rules comes after allegations that eggs sold in WA are being falsely packaged as free range by a rogue operator, who could be bringing in fertilised eggs from the Eastern States.
Nationals WA agriculture spokesman Colin de Grussa said in State Parliament last week questions needed to be asked about CF Farms, which produces brands including The Good Farmer Eggs from Gingin, Beermullah Egg Co, Bloom, Mrs Fischer’s, and the pasture eggs brand Hens of the Earth.
CF Farms denies the allegations.
Ms MacTiernan said the ACCC was investigating after she brought the matter to its attention recently.
“I’ll also be asking the ACCC whether there are any obligations by retailers to ensure the free-range eggs they sell are genuine, or are they (supermarkets) just going through the motions,” she said.