Producers will no longer need to change how eggs are labelled during an outbreak of avian influenza under proposals planned to support British farmers set out by the government.
Currently, when mandatory housing measures are introduced, eggs from free-range birds may continue to be labelled as ‘free-range’ for 16 weeks – the existing ‘derogation’ period under the Egg Marketing Standards Regulations. After that period, these eggs must then be labelled as barn eggs.
The proposals for England and Scotland announced on Tuesday – subject to an eight-week consultation – will amend the Regulations to remove the ‘derogation’ period, meaning that free-range eggs can stay labelled as such throughout mandatory housing measures.
The proposals aim to cut unnecessary red tape and costs for British producers while also strengthening supply chains.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 is now a global threat and the scale of outbreaks in recent years across the UK and Europe have been unprecedented, with more than 360 cases confirmed across Britain since late October 2021.
In both 2021-22 and 2022-23 the 16-week derogation period was exceeded, which led to significant costs for industry as egg packaging had to be changed to comply with legislation.