Egg swindler sought by DEFRA

19-03-2007 | |

For up to five years consumers have been scammed into paying premium prices for more than 500 million eggs.

Starting in November last year, Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) began a criminal inquiry into the passing off of eggs from chickens reared in battery cages as free-range. The “free-range” eggs scam is ten times bigger than was first thought. Tesco and Morrisons are among the supermarkets believed to have been victims.
What is known is that at least ten 44 mt lorries a week, each containing 224,000 eggs, have been arriving in Britain from mainland Europe, probably for at least five years, has cost consumers £50 million (over €73 million).
Under EU egg marketing rules, all eggs must be stamped in the country where they are produced. In France, for example, they must be stamped FR. A code for the method of production is also obligatory. For battery caged eggs, this is number 3, for barn eggs 2, for free-range 1 and for organic 0.
Enforcement authorities believe the illicit trade has been made easier by a lack of inspection of eggs arriving at British ports. If any checks had been made, unstamped eggs would have been readily identified. The egg industry has already tightened its controls. The British Egg Industry Council says that it is determined to close all possible loopholes to protect consumers.
There is also concern because many factory-farmed eggs from EU countries contain high levels of salmonella.
Enforcement officers now want to speak to a man caught by surveillance cameras trying to gain access to a safety deposit box in West London. Investigators at Defra believe that he could provide a clue to the principals behind the fraud.
Anyone with any information about the identity of the man caught on film is asked contact Defra Investigation Services on + 44 117 959-3111