Nestlé cracking down on caged eggs within the EU

In line with their 2017 pledge to help animal welfare, Nestlé is now only using cage-free eggs in all European food products. The company, alongside food brands such as ALDI, Mondelēz and Unilever are also calling for the European Union to ban cages for laying hens.

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Yallamundi Farm eggs expands into Woolies

Announcing its expansion to more supermarkets in New South Wales (NSW), Queensland (QLD) and Victoria (VIC), eco-friendly, sustainable, Queensland based egg farmers, Yallamundi Farm has launched its Free Range ‘Pasture-Raised’ eggs in Woolworths stores across Australia’s East Coast.
Yallamundi Farm is dedicated to creating a sustainable future, and continues to transform its farm, so that by 2022, the farm will be 100per cent carbon neutral.
Further to its welfare focused, environmentally friendly, sustainable approach to egg farming, Yallamundi Farm recognise the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility, and as a result have partnered with the Doug Hall Foundation, with five cents from every pack of Yallamundi Farm eggs sold being donated to the foundation.

In-shell pasteurisation reintroducing eggs into commercial kitchens

Food safety is always of the upmost priority in the hospitality trade, however something as simple as an unsafe egg anywhere in a food preparation area can put an entire business at risk.

A single egg with Salmonella can contaminate work surfaces as far away as 40cm, leaving bacteria that persist for 24 hours. Australia has the highest incident rate of Salmonella outbreaks in the developed world and most of those occurrences arise from the mishandling of eggs within the supply chain.

Commercial kitchens who work with or use egg products are at financial and reputational risk, with restaurateurs, caterers and food service suppliers, potentially exposing customers, aged care residents, hospital patients and tourists to the risks of preventable food poisoning.

Alasya Restaurant and Takeaway was recently fined $80,000 after 135 diners suffered mass Salmonella poisoning and Sylvania Bakery was fined $122,000 after 200 people became ill due to Salmonella.

New research by Australian Pasteurised Eggs (APE) found eight in ten (83 per cent) people will not visit a restaurant that has been fined for food poisoning, whether or not they had ever dined there themselves. For less than 20c. per plate, businesses can protect themselves from both reputational damage and substantial fines by moving to pasteurised shell eggs.

While food-borne illness can affect anyone, the research found that one in three (33 per cent) Australians are especially vulnerable to food-borne illnesses caused by pathogens such as Salmonella. Food safety and quality advocate, Gabrielle Thoreau tells us more about the risks, “People most susceptible are the elderly, pregnant women, diabetics, people with poor nutrition, kidney or liver disease and those currently undergoing cancer treatment.”

“Under current legislation, food businesses must cook with and serve pasteurised products. Until now, this has meant kitchens have had to use products such as liquid whole egg pulp, which sacrifice on flavour and culinary versatility,” says Thoreau.

However, newly available whole-egg, in-shell pasteurisation can now assure of safety against Salmonella in the egg supply chain, with raw or undercooked recipe versatility. Salmonella is only eradicated in the cooking process when eggs reach temperatures in excess of 63-7˚C scrambled eggs are potentially putting their patrons as risk.

The technology used by Australian Pasteurised Eggs ensures eggs are free from risk of Salmonella by removing 99.999 per cent of the bacteria. The pasteurised eggs extend shelf life to 90 days while also preserving the full flavour, texture and appearance.

Thoreau says, “Pasteurising an egg starts with freshly laid shell eggs from approved, certified and inspected farms. The process involves submerging eggs into moving water baths using precise time and temperature zones to pasteurise and kill the bacteria. They are then coated with food grade wax to further protect the outer shell.

“For a long time, eggs have been taken off the menu due to the risks or replaced with a substitute like liquid pulp. This new technology is a game changer for the hospitality industry as it allows people to enjoy runny eggs again, without the concern of becoming sick,” says Gabrielle Thoreau.

Seven out of ten foodborne illness outbreaks originate in food service operations, it is therefore especially important to trust your supply chain in preventing the transfer of contaminated eggs.

ACCC releases guidance on free range egg standard

The ACCC has released guidance for egg producers on its approach to enforcing the new National Information Standard on free range eggs, which comes into effect on 26 April 2018.

Under the new Standard, egg producers cannot use the words ‘free range’ on their egg cartons unless the eggs were laid by hens that:

  • had meaningful and regular access to an outdoor range during the daylight hours of the laying cycle
  • were able to roam and forage on the outdoor range
  • were subject to a stocking density of 10 000 hens or less per hectare, and that outdoor stocking density is prominently displayed on the packaging or signage.

“Shoppers are willing to pay a premium for free range eggs, but only if the chickens genuinely have regular access to an outdoor range. From April 26, free range must only be used by compliant egg producers so consumers can have confidence in the products they are buying,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

“If an egg producer’s hens are using the outdoor range on a regular basis and they satisfy the stocking density requirements, then the producer can call their eggs free range.”

The guidance also explains egg producers’ obligations under the misleading or deceptive conduct provisions of Australian Consumer Law. This includes representations made through marketing activities such as product packaging and advertising.

“If egg producers use images, pictures, or words, other than free range, that imply their eggs are free range when they are not, this would likely raise concerns under the Australian Consumer Law,” Mr Sims said.

“The ACCC is monitoring the market to ensure that free range claims are truthful and accurate and will continue to take action against those that don’t.”

Egg producer penalised $750,000 for misleading ‘free range’ claims

The Federal Court has ordered Snowdale Holdings Pty Ltd (Snowdale) to pay penalties totalling  $750,000 for making false or misleading representations that its eggs were ‘free range’, in proceedings brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

“This is the highest penalty that a Court has ordered in relation to misleading ‘free range’ egg claims. It reflects the seriousness of Snowdale’s conduct and the importance of egg producers being truthful about marketing claims they make,” ACCC Commissioner Mick Keogh said.

“Consumers pay a higher price for free range eggs, so when a ‘free range’ claim is made, it’s important that consumers are purchasing eggs laid by chickens in free range conditions.”

“Farmers who have invested in changes to their farming practices so they can make valid credence claims such as ‘free range’ also need protection from others making false credence claims,” Mr Keogh said.

Snowdale supplied eggs labelled as ‘free range’ in Western Australia under brands including Eggs by Ellah, Swan Valley Free Range and Wanneroo Free Range. Snowdale also promoted its eggs as ‘free range’ on the Eggs by Ellah website from May 2013.

In May 2016 the Federal Court found that Snowdale’s labelling of its eggs as ‘free range’ between April 2011 and December 2013 was misleading or deceptive, and amounted to false or misleading representations. The Court found that most of the hens from Snowdale’s sheds did not go outside as the farming conditions significantly inhibited them from doing so. These conditions included the number of pop holes, the number of birds per metre of pop hole, the flock size inside the shed and the shed size.

The Court has also made an order preventing Snowdale from using the words ’free range’ in connection with its eggs unless the eggs are produced by hens that are able to go outside on ordinary days, and most of which actually go outside on most days.

Snowdale was also ordered to implement a consumer law compliance program and pay a contribution towards the ACCC’s costs.

Taste trumps animal welfare for free range egg consumers

Australian consumers who buy free range eggs are more likely to do so because they believe the eggs taste good than because they are concerned about animal welfare, according to new research.

In a paper published today in the international journal Anthrozoös, researchers from the University of Adelaide’s Food Values Research Group have found that taste and quality of eggs rank high in people’s considerations for purchasing eggs with ethical production claims.

To better understand the reasons why people make ethical food choices, researchers conducted interviews at shopping malls and ran focus groups to find out about their food purchasing habits.

“People who said they bought free-range eggs readily told us that they thought the eggs were of better quality, more nutritious, and safer to eat,” says lead author Dr Heather Bray, from the University of Adelaide’s School of Humanities.

“Consumers saw free-range as more ‘natural’ for the chickens – so the eggs were ‘naturally’ better.

“These findings are in many ways unexpected, because we thought that the welfare of chickens would be the first reason people would give for purchasing free-range eggs,” Dr Bray says.

Despite some participants describing caged-egg production as “cruel”, they did not tend to emphasise welfare reasons as critical for their purchase of free-range eggs. Instead, participants felt that the free-range chickens were “happier”, ate a more “natural” diet, and thus produced a better quality of product.

“These findings help us to better understand the complex issues involved in making ethical food choices,” Dr Bray says.

“Our research suggests that consumers are more likely to purchase a food product if it’s both ‘ethical’ and viewed as being of better quality, rather than for ethical reasons alone. Consumers think about animal welfare in a much broader context – they believe that better welfare is connected to a better product.”

The study also revealed high levels of awareness among participants of caged-egg production compared with other types of animal farming. Participants were more likely to buy free-range or cage-free eggs compared with meat that is marketed as being produced ethically, in part because the price difference is much smaller in eggs.

“Taste and quality are strong motivations for purchasing and may be part of the reason why people are prepared to pay a higher price,” Dr Bray says.

The researchers say more studies are needed to better understand consumer motivations behind purchasing products with ethical production claims, in order to explore whether changes in production methods or labelling would be supported by consumers.

 

New free range standard will not meet needs of consumers: RSPCA

The Government’s new free range information standard offers some benefits, but fails to provide clarity over free range production practices and address consumer concerns, according to the RSPCA.

RSPCA Senior Policy Officer and animal law specialist Dr Jed Goodfellow said that while the Standard will require stocking densities to be disclosed on pack, which is a positive move, it fails to provide further guidance as to what free range actually means.

“The use of vague terms like ‘meaningful and regular access’ to an outdoor range is open to interpretation and may give rise to enforcement difficulties,” said Goodfellow.

“Stocking density inside and outside the barn is important to welfare, but so is flock size, the layout of the barn including the size and number of openings, the enrichment, perching and nesting provided, and the quality of the range; yet the Standard fails to address any of these factors.

“The Standard then goes on to list a number of broad exceptions to the requirement that are likely to make the ACCC’s job in policing dodgy free range claims even more difficult. Lawyers defending poor farming practices will have a field day with them.”

In addition, the allowed stocking density of 10,000 hens per hectare – more than six times the current recommended limit – is unlikely to meet consumer expectations of what free range means.

RSPCA Australia believes free range hens should be stocked at a maximum rate of 1,500 hens per hectare or up to 2,500 if a regular rotation system is in place.

The RSPCA described the information standard as a missed opportunity that will not achieve the very purpose it was set out to achieve – that is, to provide consumers with confidence in the free range label.

The RSPCA trusts the ACCC will continue to closely monitor free range claims and encourages consumers to do their own research while also looking out for the stocking densities on pack.

NZ’s Ewing Poultry eggs get animal welfare approval

Ewing Poultry, a farm south of Nelson, is the latest to become SPCA Blue Tick approved for its free range and barn eggs sold throughout New Zealand.

According to SPCA Blue Tick Business Unit Manager Ségolène de Fontenay, this is good news for consumers who will now have an even wider variety of high welfare approved eggs to choose from.

“We are excited to welcome Ewing Poultry, they’ve received SPCA Blue Tick approval on their free range and barn eggs by meeting our stringent high animal welfare standards. Consumers can buy these eggs with assurance that the hens are well looked after,” said de Fontenay.

Lloyd and Gwen Ewing established Ewing Poultry in 1981. In 2004 they saw growing demand for free range eggs and started their high animal welfare journey by changing their method of producing eggs from caged to free range.

The SPCA Blue Tick’s high animal welfare standards fit well with our farming philosophy and we support our customers’ awareness of knowing and caring how their food is farmed, says Ewing Poultry General Manager Paul Ewing.

“Our priority is to the welfare of our hens and our ongoing commitment is to give them the best conditions possible and providing our customers with high quality, tasty eggs” says Paul Ewing

“By moving forward to a sustainable future we researched European standards for free range and barn systems and we found within New Zealand the SPCA Blue Tick® is in keeping with the high EU standards and our own philosophy of high animal welfare standards,” he concludes.

Consumers can choose from a variety of high welfare approved eggs including Sungold Organic free range, Golden Downs Organic free range, Doug’s free range, Quail Valley free range, Sungold barn/cage free and Ewing barn/cage free.

Ten facts you need to know about the chicken and eggs on your table

When I am asked by friends what I do for living, I tend to raise eyebrows because my job is somewhat odd to many city people. That’s because I’m a poultry nutritionist.

Typically, the conversation turns into a friendly debate on the myths around eating chicken. Do we feed chicken hormones? Are any chickens genetically engineered? Do free range chickens taste better? And so on.

So to save everyone some time, here are some of the most common questions I get asked, and the answers I give.

1) Should you buy hormone-free chicken?

The truth is that no chickens or eggs produced in Australia contain added hormones, and they have not been given hormones for decades.

Independent tests by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, as part of the National Residue Survey, confirm that Australian chicken meat is free of added hormones.

Not that it would be easy to give them hormones anyway. Growth hormones are proteins similar to insulin used to treat diabetes.

Like insulin, they can only be injected into the body because they are broken down in the digestive tract. Therefore, it is pointless to provide chickens growth hormones in their food because they would be rendered ineffective.

And given a typical commercial shed may accommodate 40,000 to 60,000 birds per shed, it is simply logistically impossible to inject hormones into each chicken.

2) Are meat chickens genetically modified to grow fast?

Our chickens are not genetically modified, and their genes have not been altered artificially. Modern meat chickens grow more quickly and are more “meaty” than chicken breeds available decades ago due to selective breeding and optimal nutrition.

Just like pedigree dog breeders breed their puppies for desired traits, selective breeding involves those animals that show the desirable characteristics being selected as the parents for the next generation in the breeding program, and this process being repeated over many generations.

In the 1960s, the goal of selective breeding in meat chickens was simply increased growth rate and increased meat production. Nowadays, the focus has changed from growth and yield to a broad spectrum of outcomes, with a clear emphasis on improving animal welfare, reproduction and overall fitness.

3) Are meat chickens raised in cages?

All commercial meat chickens are kept in large poultry sheds on litter floors, covered with things like rice hulls or wood shavings. They are not kept in cages.

Additionally, some meat chickens also have access to the outdoors, such as those often referred to as either free-range or organic. A simple comparison is shown below.

4) Are free range chickens happier and healthier?

Not always. In fact, free range chickens are more likely to catch diseases, get injured and die earlier than those kept inside.

In the UK, free range egg layers have a mortality rate of 8-10%, which is far higher than caged hens’ death rate of 2-4%.

The contact between free range chickens and wild birds also increases the risk of spreading bird flu. And birds can die from over-consuming grass.

Cannibalism can also happen in egg layers and it is a big challenge for free range egg production systems in particular.

We always assume animals behave in a civilised manner. But the fact is free range layer hens may peck each other to death. Cannibalism in poultry is part of their natural behaviour and, unfortunately, it has proven difficult to get rid of.

5) Do free range or organic chickens taste better?

There is very little data supporting the idea that free range or organic chickens actually taste better than conventionally farmed ones.

Commercial meat chickens do not tend to like running around, as they were selected to maximise their growth. So it’s a myth that more exercise makes chicken meat more tender.

Is it organic? Does it matter?
Shutterstock

6) Why are some meat chickens yellow in colour?

In some cultures, chickens with yellow fat and skin are considered to be better quality. However, this is not true.

The yellowness of the skin, fat and egg yolk depends on the level of beta carotene in the diets. So those yellow chickens are fed with a corn-based diet, which is higher in beta carotene.

7) Are meat and egg laying chickens the same breed?

The meat and egg industries have different requirements, and use different breeds of bird.

The only eggs produced in the meat industry are those needed to produce the next generation of chickens.

Ross and Cobb birds are the two common commercial breeds selected for meat production.

The egg industry houses their hens quite differently and uses very different breeds of chickens, which are bred selectively over many generations to exhibit optimal egg producing characteristics.

The common breeds of laying hens in Australia are the Hyline Brown and the Isa Brown.

8) Why are some eggs white and others brown?

The colour of eggshells is the result of pigments being deposited during egg formation. The type of pigment depends upon the breed and is genetically determined.

To get a hint about the egg colour, look at the colour of the chicken’s ear lobes!

Interestingly, people have strong preferences for different egg shell colours in different markets. In Australia and parts of Asia, brown eggs are preferred, whereas in the US and Japan, people prefer white eggs.

The nutritional value of the egg only depends on the chickens’ diet, not the system of production or the colour of the egg shell.

For example, it has been shown that vitamin D-enhanced eggs can be produced if the diet is supplemented with high level of an active form of vitamin D.

9) What types of chickens do restaurants use?

It is often difficult to tell.

Fast food chains are more likely to use chickens produced conventionally unless specially labelled. Restaurants vary in the chickens they use. If you prefer a particular type of chicken, be sure to ask before you order.

10) Does Australia import chickens from elsewhere?

All the raw chicken meat available in Australia is grown in Australia.

According to Australian Chicken Meat Federation, we consumed 45.3kg of chicken meat per person in 2015, which means 870 grams of chicken meat per week.

Last year, more than 1.1 million tonnes of chicken meat was produced in Australia and almost all of it was consumed here.

The claim “produced in Australia” is applicable to almost all chicken meat sold in Australia with only very small quantities of cooked chicken meat being imported from New Zealand and some canned products containing chicken also potentially imported.


Sonia will be online for an Author Q&A between 1:30 and 2:30 on Wednesday, 27 July, 2016. Post any questions you have in the comments below.

The Conversation

Sonia Yun Liu, Lecturer in Poultry Nutrition, University of Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Australia experiencing an egg shortage

Australian consumers are facing an egg shortage that has been caused, in part, by new free range regulations.

The SMH reports that, apart from the regulations, the shortage has also been caused by a 3-4 per cent increase in demand for eggs as well as the onset of winter.

Because of cold weather, hens lay fewer eggs during winter. And under the new regulations introduced in March farmers are required to limit hen density to 10,000 per hectare and ensure that all birds can regularly move outdoors. Otherwise the eggs they produce may not be labelled free range.

The exact rules regarding barn dimensions have yet to be finalised and, as a result, farmers are delaying making any changes. This is affecting free range production.

In turn, as a result of the shortage of free range eggs, consumers have turned to caged eggs and the overall egg stocks have dropped.

Queensland United Egg Producers CEO John Coward told the ABC it would take up to three months to resolve the shortage.

“I haven’t noticed any price increase at the moment,” he said.

“Retailers, obviously being in a very competitive world, will try to keep those down.

“But if they have to start moving eggs around the countryside to meet demand … that would probably put some upward pressure on price.”

‘Free range’ egg producer found guilty of deceiving public

Major Western Australian egg producer Snowdale Holdings has been found guilty of falsely claiming some of its eggs were free-range.

AAP reports that The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) brought the action against Snowdale in connection with its farms in Carabooda and the Swan Valley in December 2013.

The Federal Court of Australia heard that between 2011 and 2013, Snowdale produced eggs which were sold as popular free range brands, free range eggs by Ellah, Wanneroo Free Range Eggs, Mega Free Range Eggs, Swan Valley Egg Farm, Swan Valley Egg Co, and Carabooda Lovingly Hand Packed free range eggs.

On Wednesday, Justice Antony Siopis found that the ‘free range’ claims were misleading to the public.

“Each of the sheds at Carabooda had the capacity to house about 18,000 laying hens, whilst the shed at the Swan Valley farm had the capacity to house about 12,740 laying hens,” Judge Siopis said.

“I find that most hens did not exit [the sheds] and roam freely on an open range on most days.”

Snowdale said in a statement that it no longer sources eggs from the farms at Swan Valley and Carabooda.

“The Federal Court’s reasons do not have any bearing on Snowdale’s current free-range egg farm located in Gingin,” the company said.

“Snowdale’s free-range egg farm in Gingin uses world-best farming practices and has outdoor ranges stocked at no more than 1,500 chickens per hectare, more than six times than the forthcoming national free range standard.”

The company may appeal the decision. The Court said penalties will be announced at a later date.

Choice launches free range egg app

Consumer group CHOICE has launched an app which provides consumers with an ‘augmented reality’ view of the various living conditions of birds categorised as ‘free range’.

The app comes in the wake of Consumer Affairs Ministers’ decision last week to sign off on a national standard for free-range eggs that has no requirement for hens to ever actually go outside and allows free-range eggs to be produced by hens stocked at up to 10,000 birds per hectare – more than six times the current voluntary limit of 1,500.

“With Augmented Reality on your phone or tablet we now have the power to make labels tell the truth, even when government won’t require it,” said CHOICE Head of Media Tom Godfrey.

“With the new ‘free-range’ rules clearly reflecting the commercial interests of the big industrialised egg producers over consumers, we had to intervene in this market to make up for the failing of Consumer Affairs Ministers.

“The app gives power back to consumers, helping them navigate the free-range egg market. By scanning a free-range egg carton, consumers can quickly see which eggs live up to the ‘free-range’ claim.

According to CHOICE, at a minimum, a standard for free-range eggs should require that eggs labelled ‘free-range’ are produced in farms where chickens actually go outside and have a maximum outdoor stocking density of 1,500 hens per hectare.

CHOICE claims that 213 million eggs were sold as free-range in 2014 that didn’t meet consumers’ expectations.

 

Tocal College selling eggs to Pace as free range becomes defined

A NSW government-linked farm is supplying “free range” eggs to the country’s biggest egg producer, a company that has played a critical role in lobbying efforts to weaken labelling standards.

The Department of Primary Industries-run Tocal College has signed a 10-year contract with Pace Farms to supply it with eggs from an operation with 70,000 hens on a 15-hectare property near Newcastle.

The business contract has sparked fears the government’s efforts to help develop a national, legally binding free range standard – most likely to be decided on Thursday – has been undermined by industrial egg producers.

Darren Bayley, the principal of Tocal College, said the farm met the Model Code of Practice, which says stocking densities can go beyond 1500 hens per hectare if they are regularly rotated.
He said the birds were rotated through clean, shaded paddocks for a minimum of eight hours a day, and not one dollar from the sale of the eggs went to the Department of Primary Industries.

“All of our eggs go to Pace Farms. We looked at the different providers and Pace had an excellent reputation. We’ve found Pace to be good to deal with. We’re proud of our enterprise, our layout and set up,” he said.

The managing director of Pace Farms is Frank Pace, who is a director of the Australian Egg Corporation Limited. The AECL at one stage attempted to secure a “free range” certification trademark that set the stocking density at 20,000 hens per hectare.

Consumer group Choice said the industry’s definition meant hens would never have to go outside, and has instead proposed: “Where most of the birds actually go outside regularly, have room to move comfortably when outdoors, and have room to move comfortably inside the barn.”

Sunny Queen Farms commits to lower hen density for free range eggs

Sunny Queen Farms brand has committed to an outdoor hen density of no more than 1500 hens per hectare in their free range egg farms across Australia.

The move means that the brand will comply with the hen density range recommended bythe Model Code of Practice, a document produced by the Primary Industries Standing Committee and published by the CSIRO.

According to the company, the move will make Sunny Queen Farms the only major free range brand that can claim an outdoor density of 1500 hens per hectare.

As Choice points out, several smaller free range egg producers do meet the Model Code of Practice, with some having outdoor hen density of as low as 7 per hectare. However, many producers claiming to be free range have hen density of up to 10,000.

Free Range eggs account for almost 41 per cent share of total eggs in supermarkets, however Sunny Queen Australia MD John O’Hara said consumers may not be getting what they think they are buying.

“There have been a lot of conflicting opinions around different densities and definitions for Free Range. Consumers want more clarity so they know what they are buying,” he said.

O’Hara added that hens at Sunny Queen have access to the outdoors for at least 8 hours a day where they can forage and roam freely.

“We give consumers access to a live webcam at the farms so they can see first-hand the chooks roaming around outside – we call it our Chooktracker,’ he said.

FSANZ responds to egg safety claims

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has released a statement refuting an article published in The Sydney Morning Herald which claimed that supermarkets are the ‘missing link’ in egg-related Salmonella protection.

The FSANZ statement says there is no food safety reason to require whole eggs to be refrigerated at retail; however, retailers may choose to refrigerate eggs for their own reasons (for example, to maintain quality of the egg such as firmness of the yolk or reduce spoilage).

FSANZ further advises it undertook a thorough risk assessment of egg production and processing in Australia in 2011, involving consultation with industry, scientists, government agencies and the public, with the assistance of international and domestic experts. The assessments covered the entire supply chain, including factors on-farm that increase the likelihood of Salmonella contamination, through grading, washing, packing, retail storage and consumer preparation.

The FSANZ statement declares that whole uncracked eggs aren’t required to be refrigerated at retail because:

  • Unlike many other countries (eg, the US and UK), the types of Salmonella that can contaminate the inside of eggs as they are formed in the bird are not present in Australian laying flocks;
  • Contamination of the surface of the egg with Salmonella can occur as it is laid, or via contamination from the farm environment. There are requirements in the Food Standards Code for egg producers to control this hazard, eg, minimising the contamination of feed with Salmonella so it is not introduced to the laying flock;
  • Salmonella must first cross the physical barriers of the shell and membranes, and tolerate the hostile conditions of the egg white before it can enter the yolk and grow;
  • The temperature along the whole supply chain affects the rate at which the protective membranes within the egg degrade. The time eggs spend on the retail shelf is often short compared with the time between the being laid through to consumption (ie, entire shelf life). Due to the nature of egg contamination in Australia, refrigeration of eggs at retail is considered to have a small impact on the overall risk of illness;
  • Evidence shows that food poisoning outbreaks associated with eggs in Australia have been mostly due to uncooked or lightly cooked foods containing contaminated raw egg, such as sauces and desserts. Factors that may have contributed to outbreaks included cross-contamination during food preparation (i.e., transfer of Salmonella from the surface of the egg to other surfaces and/or foods) and storage of the food containing raw egg at temperatures that would permit growth of Salmonella.

FSANZ recommends the following tips for consumers to minimise the risk of food poisoning:

  • Dishes containing raw eggs as an ingredient, that aren’t going to be cooked before being eaten, should not be served to small children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems (as they are at greater risk from food poisoning). Egg meals should be cooked for these vulnerable people until the yolk in a boiled egg has started to become firm or eggs have become set in omelettes or scrambled eggs.
  • Check your eggs for visible cracks. If it is cracked, it is safest to discard it or cook thoroughly, for example in a baked cake.
  • If you accidentally drop pieces of shell into your egg mixture, it too could be contaminated and the mixture will need thorough cooking. Remove the shell pieces with a clean spoon or fork.
  • Wash your hands with soap and running water and dry thoroughly before handling any food including eggs and after handling eggs so you don’t contaminate other food.
  • If you are not going to cook the eggs further, don’t separate the yolk from the white using the shell as that could contaminate the raw egg. Invest in a plastic egg separator.
  • Prepare raw egg foods (such as mayonnaise or mousse containing raw eggs) just before you are going to eat them and refrigerate immediately at 5°C or below, so the bacteria cannot grow.

FSANZ said that to enhance the quality of eggs, consumers can keep eggs refrigerated in the cardboard box they are purchased in.

One egg; three meals: poached eggs for a Sunny day

Sunny Queen Meal Solutions has turned the classic Homestyle Poached Egg into a contemporary menu item that allows for quick and easy poached eggs to be served perfectly first time, every time. 

By cooking a poached egg that is snap frozen and ready to serve within a matter of minutes, Sunny Queen Meal Solutions aims to give back time, money and menu inspiration to caterers, cafes and commercial kitchens.

Sunny Queen Managing Director John O’Hara said their Homestyle Poached Eggs are designed to help kitchens serve up large quantities of consistent quality poached eggs across breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“Eggs are a versatile ingredient. By limiting its use to just breakfast, customers are missing out on opportunities throughout the day to benefit from the high protein and 11 vitamins eggs are renowned for,” O’Hara said.

“We really encourage food service providers to think outside the box when creating meal choices for their customers. By buying one versatile product in bulk, businesses could even find themselves saving and making more money,” he said.

To make it easier for cafes, commercial kitchens and caterers to add poached eggs to their menus, Sunny Queen have developed three delicious recipes that showcase their versatility.

Sunny Queen Meal Solutions suggests the classic Eggs Benedict on split English muffins with salmon or ham and baby spinach, and recommends meal providers try Roasted Vegetable Salad with Poached Eggs for a delicious lunch, and Baked Eggs with Mushrooms and Pancetta for a satisfying and substantial dinner.

Home Style Poached Eggs are only available from Sunny Queen Meal Solutions and are suitable for any commercial food provider including quick service restaurants, health and aged care facilities, airlines, contract caterers, workplace cafeterias, schools and more.

Sunny Queen Meal Solutions’ Homestyle Poached Eggs are 100 percent egg with no additives or preservatives, giving caterers and meal service provider’s full confidence in the products. 

Billboard calls for Assistant Treasurer to end the free-range uncertainty

A consumer-funded billboard has been unveiled in the Victorian electorate of Assistant Treasurer the Hon Kelly O’Dwyer by CHOICE, calling for the delivery of standards amongst free-range eggs to meet consumers’ expectations.

The billboard was funded by 866 individuals who donated over $26,000 to get the message across to Minister O’Dwyer and her state and territory colleagues as they are set to make a decision on a free-range egg standard early this year.

According to CHOICE spokesperson Tom Godfrey, the Assistant Treasurer has the opportunity to create a meaningful egg standard.

“Consumers want free-range claims to mean something in Australia. At the moment, many claims are little more than cynical marketing slogans used to contrive a price premium,” Godfrey said.

“The support for the billboard further highlights how passionate consumers are about this issue and their firm views on what free-range should mean. They want a standard to reflect these expectations.”

Some egg producers have been actively lobbying for a standard that sets a lower benchmark for free-range production than the definition established through case law.

By mobilising Australia’s largest and loudest consumer movement, CHOICE fights to hold industry and government accountable and achieve real change on the issues that matter most.

What CHOICE wants

At a minimum, a national information standard should require that eggs labelled ‘free-range’ are produced in farms where:

  • The majority of chickens actually go outside regularly
  • Birds have room to move comfortably when outdoors
  • Birds have room to move comfortably inside the barn
  • Farmers undertake animal welfare practices 

Any products that don’t meet these minimum requirements should be labelled in a way that accurately reflects how they were produced, for example ‘access to range’. 

Will Coles crack under pressure to freeze their eggs?

Pressure is mounting for Coles to move eggs into refrigerated aisles in a move to protect consumers from salmonella, a practice currently rolling out at Woolworths.

Woolworths has pledged to keep eggs in refrigerated cabinets as it continues a nation-wide revamp of its stores.

In order to prevent the spread of the harmful salmonella bacteria, fresh eggs are now being chilled in new cabinets installed at dozens of Woolworths outlets in the past year.

Coles has come under some criticism across social media platforms as it would not disclose if any of its stores would keep eggs refrigerated in response to cases where egg-related incidents lead to hundreds of hospital admissions each year.

According to infectious diseases expert at Australian National University medical school, Professor Peter Collignon, eggs must be treated just like raw meat and kept in a refrigerator at all times.

“I’m always surprised by the lack of anxiety about this. We ought to make the product safer, and we do that by refrigerating it, even at the supermarket,” Collignon said.

Collignon stressed that poor practices at farms, where "dirty eggs" are graded and used when they shouldn't be, combined with poor food-handling practices, particularly in catering or at restaurants, have been the main culprits behind large outbreaks of the food-borne illness.

The salmonella bacteria is spread by birds, usually through faeces, with food safety laws requiring eggs to be washed, inspected for cracks, graded and then kept at cool temperatures at farms and during transport.

But there is no legal requirement to keep eggs in a cool environment at the retail level, and there is no scientific consensus about the need to do so.

Australian consumers debate the switch to free range eggs

New research from Canstar Blue has shown that there is a major difference in the egg-purchasing preferences across Australia as consumers decide between free range or cheaper, caged eggs.

There has been confusion amongst consumers over the distinction made between the two types of eggs in recent light of the changing labelling laws. As a result, Canstar asked 3,000 people to choose which type of eggs they tend to buy.

Of the 2,599 respondents who had bought eggs from a supermarket or grocer in the last three months, 51 per cent favoured free range were found to favour free range/organic eggs while 22 per cent said they buy caged eggs.

The survey found that consumers in Queensland are significantly more likely to buy caged eggs than those in any other part of the country -29 per cent compared to the national average of 22 per cent. Elsewhere in the country, New South Wales was 22 per cent, Victoria 21 per cent, South Australia 18 per cent and Western Australia was just 12 per cent.

Queenslanders were also found to be the least likely to buy free range eggs -44 per cent compared to the national average of 51 per cent. Consumers in Western Australia (59 per cent) and South Australia (58 per cent) were most likely to buy free range. The figure for New South Wales was 52 per cent and Victoria 51 per cent.

The vast majority of consumers (94 per cent) agreed that they buy caged eggs because they were cheaper, although 90 per cent said they would switch to free range eggs if they cost less.

On the other hand, respondents that bought free range eggs did so due to the higher quality (86 per cent). 90 per cent of consumers cited not wanting to support the caged egg industry as a reason for buying free range, whilst 84 per cent were happy to pay more for their free range eggs.

Ultimately, the Canstar research showed that the majority of consumers are favouring free range eggs and even those who do buy caged indicate that they would prefer to switch. Caged eggs generally cost half the price of branded free range eggs, although supermarket label free range eggs have narrowed the price gap.

The emphasis is usually put on the industry to improve standards, but some of those on the front line insist that Australia’s huge demand for eggs simply can’t be met without caged eggs, with claims there could even be an “egg shortage” when supermarkets phase out caged eggs.

Most Aussies want free roaming hens according to Choice

Consumer advocacy group Choice has released its latest research highlighting consumers’ desire for a strong and meaningful free-range egg standard in Australia that would recognise the need for hens to regularly go outside, have room to move inside and outside, and for farmers to undertake animal welfare practices. 

The consumer group is calling for producers who fall short of consumers’ expectations to label their products in a way that accurately reflects their production practices, for example ‘access to range’.

“Consumers have a firm idea of what they believe free-range to mean and they want a standard to reflect these expectations. Creating a new category such as ‘access to range’ will provide consumer choice and confidence while catering to different production models,” said Choice spokesperson Tom Godfrey. 

The Choice research found that consumers believe it is important, very important or essential that the following elements are included in a standard: 

•    87% said that birds actually go outside regularly. 
•    91% said that birds have room to move comfortably when they are outdoors. 
•    89% said that farmers undertake animal welfare practices in the production of their eggs. 

“With free-range eggs costing almost double than caged, the purpose of a standard for free-range eggs should be to give consumers accurate information so they can decide whether they wish to pay a premium,” Godfrey said.

“A standard should not be used to shield producers who might be misleading consumers.”
 
“With no national standard for free-range eggs, consumers are getting ripped off. Earlier this year, we found that a minimum of 213 million eggs were sold as free-range in 2014 that didn’t meet consumers’ expectations of free-range.”

“It’s time to stop big egg producers cashing in on consumers’ desire to buy eggs that meet a higher standard of welfare without delivering a product that meets these claims,” said Godfrey.
 
Choice also noted that some egg producers are actively lobbying through this process for a standard that sets a lower benchmark for free-range production than the definition established through case law (which is that at a minimum, most chickens go outside on most ordinary days).
 
Rather than broadening the definition of free-range to accommodate big egg producers, consumers (62%) think that producers whose products fall short of a free-range standard should be able to label their products in a way that accurately reflects their production practices, for example ‘access to range’.

“Importantly, this approach will provide certainty for those large-scale producers who might be at risk of misleading consumers. Instead of remaining at risk of ACCC action or having to change their production practices, they can simply adopt more accurate labeling and give consumers genuine information about how their products are produced. That would be a win for consumers and a win for egg farmers, large and small,” Godfrey said.

Submissions to the government’s free-range egg labelling consultation process close on November 27 with the Government likely to make a decision on a standard in February next year.