GB-wide Information Note from Defra on the Marketing of Eggs from Hens Temporarily Housed in Barns for their Welfare from 21 March 2022
Purpose and scope
To enable a consistent approach to concessions on compliance with Egg Marketing Regulations across GB (England, Scotland and Wales) from 21st March 2022 whilst the Avian Influenza housing order is in place. Separate information will be issued by DAERA to cover Northern Ireland.
Following the introduction of the Avian Influenza housing order across the United Kingdom on 29th November 2021, an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone is in place to reduce the risk to poultry from AI. The Prevention Zone requires industry and other poultry keepers to implement higher biosecurity measures in their flocks specifically by housing or separation of all poultry from wild birds. A fixed 16-week ‘grace period’ exists during which eggs from birds which were intended to be free-range may be marketed as free-range even though they are housed. This grace period expires on 21st March 20221.
The marketing of eggs as ‘free-range’, when they are not entitled to use that designation because hens have been housed beyond the 16-week grace period, would be a breach of legislation: instead, the eggs should be marketed as ‘Barn Eggs’. Accordingly, if birds remain housed beyond the grace period, producers must amend the marketing of eggs in order to comply with the law. The law requires that an indication of the farming method must appear on the outer surface of packs containing the eggs in easily visible and clearly legible type.
Egg marketing from 21st March
Legislation on Egg Marketing Standards (in retained Commission Regulation (EC) No 589/2008) sets out the rules for producers to follow in indicating the farming method, if a mandatory requirement to house birds (such as a housing order) prevents hens’ access to open air runs beyond the 16-week grace period. These standards already provide a significant period during which the free-range description may be used to market eggs even though the hens are housed.
The following additional arrangements for marketing eggs will apply from 21st March 2022:
From 21st March, egg producers are required to ensure that eggs are stamped with the appropriate code to show that the farming method has changed from ‘free-range’ or 1UK to ‘barn’ production or 2UK, until the mandatory housing requirement is lifted. Given that eggs cannot be stamped with two different codes, the Government welcomed BEIC’s temporary derogation to the Lion Code of Practice to allow the usual on-farm marking of Producer Establishment Number to take place in packing centres (see footnote 2).
Egg box labelling
Industry must put in place one of the agreed options for marketing eggs laid on or after 21st March (Appendix A and B). These are, in order of preference:
The Governments across GB (England, Scotland and Wales) have made these concessions for this year only on the understanding that once the national housing measures have been lifted, a more suitable approach to handling future outbreaks is agreed.
Northern Ireland will issue separate advice to industry. Labelling for eggs moved from GB to NI should follow the guidance for NI.
Point of Sale (POS) Signage
Clear and transparent POS signage is essential to ensure consumers are not misled, and to avoid undermining consumer confidence in the free-range industry. When a direct print to pack label or an affixed label is used to market eggs, POS information is mandatory.
POS signage should clearly state the method of production and the reasons for temporary housing. (Exemplar POS material is included in Appendix C.) The egg industry must work in cooperation with its retail customers to ensure that consumers are made fully aware of the status of these eggs before purchase. The sufficiency of a notice or sign and the adequacy of its location will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
From 21st March, the minimum standard for POS and in-store signage should be:
Key words to be used in POS comms are:
These words should also be used in statements in retail stores, websites and the out of home sector (e.g. cafes and restaurants).
For online sales, statements should appear on website home pages, on banners in egg taxonomy pages and when customers search for eggs. General information pages and Q&A sections of websites should also include information on the current Avian Influenza outbreak (Appendix D).
Egg as an ingredient
A list of ingredients on a pre-packed food product will contravene retained Food Information to Consumers (FIC) Regulation (EU) 1169/2011 if it indicates that it contains free-range eggs, when the eggs should be classified as Barn Eggs, unless corrected.
Should a free-range indication be given on a list of ingredients, the use of a clear correctional notice or sign in a suitable location will be sufficient to correct a ‘free-range’ reference.
Appendix A: GB-wide Concession hierarchy outlining how industry should market eggs laid from 21st March.
Appendix B: Illustrative examples of the concession hierarchy outlining how eggs should be marketed from 21st March.
Appendix C: Exemplar point of sale (POS) and in-store signage examples.
Appendix D: Exemplar website copy
You may be aware of the current temporary requirement from the government for all UK farmers to keep birds being bred for meat and eggs indoors as a precaution against Avian influenza. The Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland have jointly said it poses a very low food safety risk for UK consumers.
We remain committed to our usual high standards of animal welfare and to supporting our British farmers during this time. Our free-range poultry and hens will be permitted to access outside space as soon as it is safe to do so. In the meantime, these animals are classed as barn poultry and hens.
Temporary housing order: eggs and poultry
You may be aware of the current temporary requirement from the government for all UK farmers to keep birds being bred for meat and eggs indoors as a precaution against Avian flu.
Although Avian flu poses a very low food safety risk for UK consumers, the government is trying to limit the spread to protect both wild and farmed birds.
This includes a housing order across the UK which requires keepers of birds to keep them inside away from wild birds. This extends to all free-range poultry reared for meat or egg production, including when used as an ingredient, and affects all UK retailers and producers.
Animal welfare is a top priority and we will ensure that the highest standards of welfare are maintained while this housing order is in place.
All poultry have freedom to express natural behaviour, including perching and roosting while they are temporarily indoors.
Over the next few days you will see notices in our shops advising customers of this temporary change.
We are very much committed to free-range and to the farmers who produce our free-range eggs and poultry. This means selling only free-range eggs and using only free-range eggs as an ingredient in our own label products - and this will continue as soon as the temporary housing order has lifted. In the meantime, products labelled as free-range are derived from barn hens and poultry.
If your premises are in a Protection Zone, Surveillance Zone, or Restricted Zone, a movement license will be required for certain activities. Movement licenses can be obtained from the APHA by registering with the new Online AI Licensing Service.
General licenses allow a movement or activity that would otherwise be prohibited in England and Wales. You need to check that you meet and comply with the conditions of the general license. If you do so, you do not need to apply – you can rely on the general license as providing authority for the movement or activity.
So far general licenses have been issued for the following activities (please note these are not valid for movements in or out of a Temporary Control Zone, and individual movement licenses will be required):
Full details and a copy of each license can be obtained from the gov.uk website
Unless covered by a general license, poultry keepers will need to apply to the APHA for individual movement licenses. Please ensure you give the APHA as much notice as possible as it can take time to issue licenses. The APHA is likely to receive high volumes of license requests so contingency plans should be arranged in case there is any delay in licensing.
Members should check with their processor or egg packer whether they are designated to receive live birds, meat, or eggs from farms within a Restricted, Protection, or Surveillance Zone, and have their designation details to hand when applying for movement licenses.
Unless your holding is under individual site-specific restrictions, feed can be brought onto the premises without a license as long as the requirements for cleansing and disinfection within your Zone are met.
If you have any licensing queries or aren’t sure whether or not you need a license, contact the APHA with your query by telephone on 03000 200 301.
Keep poultry and other captive birds housed inside their buildings. If this is impractical or significantly detrimental to welfare, then a veterinary inspector may direct you to isolate birds without housing them.
Ensure that all carcasses that are not seized or disposed of by a veterinary inspector are disposed of in accordance with their instructions.
Adhere to strict biosecurity on and off the farm and follow any additional measures as directed by a veterinary inspector.
Also, follow the controls listed for the 10km surveillance zone HERE.
For a full list of licences click here
Not move poultry, other captive birds or mammals (including pigs and cattle) to or from premises where poultry or other captive birds are kept (exceptions apply for pet animals) unless under licence.
Not move poultry meat, carcasses, litter, eggs, other livestock or animals within or outside of the zone unless under licence. Table eggs may be sent direct to wholesale or retail premises without a licence.
Pack any eggs going to a designated packing centre in disposable packaging.
Record any individuals visiting the premises where poultry or other captive birds are kept. Exceptions include zoos or wildlife parks (providing the public has no access to areas where birds are kept) and on public rights of way.
Keep a record of all poultry or poultry eggs entering or leaving premises within the zone, except where eggs are being moved direct to retail premises or onwards from such premises.
Ensure appropriate biosecurity measures are in place for people and vehicles entering or leaving premises where poultry, other captive birds or eggs are kept – disinfectants must be from the approved list.
Ensure anyone who moves any poultry, other captive bird, meat, feed, manure, slurry, litter or any other thing which may be contaminated cleanses and disinfects the vehicle and any equipment used to transport that thing as soon as it is unloaded.
Not remove or spread poultry litter, manure or slurry unless under licence.
Not permit any poultry or captive birds to be exhibited at any fair, market, show, or gathering.
Not release game birds.
Anyone involved in the transport or marketing of poultry or poultry eggs must also make a record of those that are transported or marketed.
For a full list of licences click here
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