Ministers get cracking on free range eggs

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The Consumer Affairs Ministers have agreed to develop an enforceable national information standard for free range eggs.

Currently, the National Model Code of Practice for the welfare of animals defines “free-range” as using a stocking density of no more than 1,500 birds per hectare but is not enforceable.

Coles and Woolworths have stocking densities of 10,000 birds per hectare, nearly 7 times the Model Code limit.

Currently ACT and Queensland are the only states to have free range legislation in Australia, but they vary greatly. The ACT sets a stocking density of 1,500 birds per hectare, but Queensland sets a stocking density of 10,000 birds per hectare. SA is introducing its own voluntary free range egg code.

In June 2014, NSW Fair Trading commenced work on the development of a national information standard for free-range eggs. However this requires Federal Government support to proceed.

Under the Australian Consumer Law, a national information standard is designed to ensure consumers can make informed decisions about what they are purchasing. Other national information standards in place include ingredient labelling on cosmetics and toiletries and care labels for clothing and textiles.

Under the Australian Consumer Law, the maximum penalties for supplying goods and services that do not comply with information standards are $1.1 million for a body corporate and $220,000 for an individual.

CHOICE’s campaign for a national standard for free range eggs saw more than 9,000 consumers write to Consumer Affairs Ministers last week calling on them to agree to a national standard for free range eggs and end the “free range” farce.

“This is a massive win for consumers and a significant step towards stopping the free range rip-off,” said CHOICE Director of Campaigns & Communications Matt Levey.

“84 per cent of egg buyers agree that a mandatory national standard is needed and today their voices were heard.

“We congratulate ministers on this decision and we particularly appreciate the leadership shown by the Hon. Victor Dominello, MP, NSW Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation, who has strongly advocated for a standard.

“While we don't want to put the chicken before the egg, the fact that the Ministers have agreed to develop a national standard is a significant win for Aussie free-range-egg lovers. We now need to ensure that the standard meets consumers’ expectations,” Levey says.

CHOICE will continue to work with governments, regulators, industry and consumers to help inform the national standard.