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Woodland eggs caught up in SFO inquiry

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 13/03/2017
<span style="font-size:13px;">Woodland says it pulled its free-range eggs from shelves immediately after discovering a supplier was under investigation for using cage eggs.</span> © PA Wire/PA Images Woodland says it pulled its free-range eggs from shelves immediately after discovering a supplier was under investigation for using cage eggs.

Free-range egg brand Woodland says it immediately cut ties to a supplier being investigated by the fraud watchdog for potentially selling cage eggs.

The Serious Fraud Office said on Monday that it was investigating Palace Poultry after news website Newsroom reported the Ararimu farm was supplementing its supply of eggs to supermarket chain Countdown with caged eggs.

Michael Guthrie, the managing director of Woodland's owner Mainland Poultry, on Tuesday told NZ Newswire the company had previously used small amounts of Palace Poultry eggs to fill shortages, but had ceased soon after learning of the SFO probe in early February.

He said he had spent the morning looking through the dictionary for a word stronger than "betrayed" and said the alleged deception now risked hurting a long-standing free-range brand.

Mainland Poultry had gone to significant lengths to check the eggs they had been buying were free-range, he said.

It had sent its own inspectors to Palace Poultry and also been assured by the Ministry for Primary industries that the purchased eggs were genuinely free-range.

The company would no longer source any eggs externally, he said.

A spokeswoman for the Serious Fraud Office said it had launched an investigation into Palace Poultry, but declined to comment further.

Countdown pulled all Palace Poultry brand eggs from its shelves on Monday after reports the company may have been including eggs from caged hens in its supplies.

A key player at Palace Poultry, Aaron Fletcher, told Newsroom on Monday that the company believed it was only buying free-range eggs.

But the news website said it had seen invoices that labelled purchased eggs as caged.

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