New barn egg labelling concession introduced

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The government on Wednesday announced egg labelling changes for poultry that have had to be housed due to avian influenza.

From today (1 February), eggs originating from free range flocks in the east of England (Norfolk, Suffolk and parts of Essex) will need to be labelled as barn eggs. The concession will apply to the rest of England from 27 February.

The commencement date marks the end of the 16-week grace period given after the introduction of a regional (12 October 2022) and subsequent national mandatory housing order (7 November 2022).

“Farmers and poultry producers are facing real pressures as a result of this avian influenza outbreak. We hope the labelling concessions announced today will help ease the burden industry is facing,” Farming Minister Mark Spencer said.

“We are very mindful of the need to maintain consumer confidence in the free-range brand long-term and appreciate the continued cooperation from the sector as we battle this insidious disease.”

In recognition of current elevated input costs facing the industry along with the impacts of avian influenza, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) will allow the same packaging concessions that were granted last year. This means where other options are not feasible, such as over-stickering or marketing eggs in “barn reared” egg boxes, industry will be allowed the use of direct print to pack or an affixed label on free-range boxes to communicate to consumers that the eggs have come from hens that are now barn reared.

Over the last two years, the UK has faced its largest ever outbreak of avian influenza with over 300 cases confirmed since late October 2021 of which over 270 have been in England.

The Defra maintained that the enhanced biosecurity measures including housing mandated by the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) currently in force in England have been vital in protecting flocks across the country from the disease.

The labelling will remain in place until the housing order is lifted.

As required by the legislation, an indication of the farming method must continue to appear on the outer surface of packs containing the eggs in easily visible and clearly legible type. Eggs must also be stamped with the appropriate code to show that the farming method has changed from ‘free-range’ or 1UK to ‘barn’ production or 2UK. Eggs should not be stamped with two codes.