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Call for inquiry into free range eggs

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 14/03/2017

With feathers continuing to fly in the debate about whether Kiwi caged eggs are being sold as free-range, the Greens have called for an inquiry.

It comes as the Serious Fraud Office is investigating Palace Poultry, with news reports on Monday claiming the company may have included eggs from caged hens in supplies of free-range eggs from its Ararimu farm.

Green Party MP Mojo Mathers said the industry had been left with egg on its face and the Commerce Commission should launch an inquiry to protect genuine free range farmers at risk of losing public trust.

"A huge number of people are willing to pay more for free range eggs with the expectation that they're supporting a healthier and cruelty-free environment for hens," she said.

"Caged egg producers should not be benefiting from the premium that free-range products command."

Ms Mathers said it was unclear whether there was a problem with the industry and if there may be a few suppliers exploiting the system or a broader issue.

"I have asked the Commission to undertake a broad based inquiry to determine the scale of the problem around animal welfare labelling and if there are gaps in the regulation of such claims," she said.

"I understand the Ministry for Primary Industries were auditing Palace Poultry at the time these eggs were allegedly mislabelled."

"This raises questions about whether regulators have adequate systems in place to stop this happening again."

In response to Monday's report, supermarket chain Countdown announced it had pulled all Palace Poultry eggs from its shelves.

Egg brand Woodland said it had been supplementing its supplies with a small number of Palace Poultry eggs but stopped immediately in February when it became aware of the SFO probe.

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