Free-range eggs to disappear from supermarkets on Monday – as British hens have spent four months cooped up in bird flu lockdown
- Eggs previously classed ‘free-range’ must now be ‘barn’ due to bird flu lockdown
- Chickens have been in bird flu lockdown for four months, since November 2021
- The British Retail Consortium said supermarkets will put up signs for customers
Free-range eggs will disappear from supermarkets on Monday – because Britain’s hens have spent the last four months cooped up.
Chickens have been in bird flu lockdown since November, meaning eggs previously classed as free-range must now be labeled ‘barn’.
Officials at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) ordered an estimated 35 million egg-laying hens indoors after an unprecedented spike in case numbers led to the ‘largest ever’ outbreak of H5N1, also known as bird flu, on UK soil.
Free-range eggs will disappear from supermarkets on Monday – because Britain’s hens have spent the last four months cooped up
Farmers hoped the Government would lift the indoor housing order next week, but officials decided to keep it in place after the total number of outbreaks hit 80.
A Defra spokesman told The Guardian: ‘The 16-week grace period we allowed for free-range eggs has now been exceeded, and eggs must now be marketed as “barn eggs”.’
The British Retail Consortium said supermarkets will put up signs notifying customers of the change but added: ‘When the measures are lifted, eggs will go back to being free-range.’
Aimee Mahony, chief poultry adviser at the National Farmers ‘Union, added:’ Shoppers may notice different labels on egg packs explaining the eggs have been laid by hens temporarily housed to protect their health and welfare.
‘Once the risk levels have reduced and the housing measures have been lifted by Defra, birds will be able to go outside again.’
Eggs laid by hens that have been kept inside for more than 16 weeks cannot be sold under the free-range classification.
Bird flu has been rampant across Europe, with the continent suffering one of its worst winters for the disease.
The outbreaks are so widespread that France has been trialling bird flu vaccines. Meanwhile, a widely used food coloring that has been banned as a potential cancer risk in the EU will continue to be permitted in Britain.
Titanium dioxide, which is commonly used in paint and sunscreen lotion, can be added as a whitening agent in sweets, cakes, mayonnaise, hot cross buns and even Easter eggs.
Eggs laid by hens that have been kept inside for more than 16 weeks cannot be sold under the free-range classification. Stock photo used
It appears in many supermarket own-brand products along with some sold by famous names such as Mr Kipling, Dr Oetker and Cadbury.
The European Food Safety Authority has ordered a ban on the basis it is potentially genotoxic – a cancer risk.
However, experts at Britain’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) are confident there is no safety risk based on the advice of two UK expert committees on food and additives and will continue to allow it to be used.
Despite this, the additive will be banned in Northern Ireland, which must fall in line with EU food safety rules as a result of Brexit. Many brands and UK supermarkets have decided to remove the ingredient.