The Australian government will launch an investigation into claims that eggs laid by barn and cage hens are being labelled and sold as free-range eggs.
The possibility of an egg substitution racket was discovered when data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Australian Egg Corporation and the Australian Free Range Egg and Poultry Association showed that the number of free-range hens in the country could produce only about 80 percent of the eggs that are labelled as free-range.
Fifteen percent of eggs available to consumers are labelled free-range.
Free-range egg producers have alleged for years that barn and cage eggs produced by big operators have been packaged free-range cartons, but they admit they have no hard evidence to back up their claims.
Minister for Agriculture, Peter McGauran, said that he would contact the state agriculture ministers, as they were responsible for enforcing consumer and packaging laws.
“These allegations need to be investigated to protect the trust consumers have in Australian produce,” he said.
“Australian farmers have built a reputation for clean, green agriculture that is trusted by consumers both here and overseas.”
The Australian Egg Corporation has subsequently rejected the egg substitution claim.