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Great egg-spectations as ministers get cracking on fixing free range

CHOICE welcomes Consumer Affairs Ministers’ agreement to develop a national standard for free range eggs

12 June 2015

Consumer advocacy group CHOICE has applauded the decision by Consumer Affairs Ministers to develop an enforceable national information standard for free range eggs.[1]

This decision follows a sustained campaign by CHOICE, which saw more than 9,000 consumers write to Consumer Affairs Ministers this week calling on them to agree to a national standard for free range eggs and end the “free range” farce.

“This is a massive win for consumers and a significant step towards stopping the free range rip-off,” says CHOICE Director of Campaigns & Communications Matt Levey.

“Consumers want labels that make sense and deliver on their promises. 84% of egg buyers agree that a mandatory national standard is needed and today their voices were heard.[2]

“We congratulate ministers on this decision and we particularly appreciate the leadership shown by the Hon. Victor Dominello, MP, NSW Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation, who has strongly advocated for a standard.

“While we don't want to put the chicken before the egg, the fact that the Ministers have agreed to develop a national standard is a significant win for Aussie free-range-egg lovers. We now need to ensure that the standard meets consumers’ expectations,” Mr Levey says.

CHOICE will continue to work with governments, regulators, industry and consumers to help inform the national standard.

Scrambled stocking densities:  
  • The National Model Code of Practice for the welfare of animals defines “free-range” using a stocking density of no more than 1,500 birds per hectare but is not enforceable.
  • The Australian Egg Corporation previously pushed for a maximum stocking density of 20,000 birds per hectare, 13 times the Model Code limit. This was rejected by the ACCC in its initial assessment on the grounds it may mislead consumers.
  • Major retailers Coles and Woolworths have stocking densities of 10,000 birds per hectare, nearly 7 times the Model Code limit.
  • In August 2013, CHOICE lodged its free-range super complaint with NSW Fair Trading.
  • In October 2013, CHOICE gave a Shonky Award to Ecoeggs for what was then their declared stocking density of 20,000 birds per hectare.
  • In June 2014, NSW Fair Trading commenced work on the development of a national information standard for free-range eggs. However this requires Federal Government support to proceed.
  • Both ACT and Queensland have free range legislation in Australia;
    • ACT’s Egg (Labelling and Sale) Act 2001 follows the model code and sets a stocking density of 1,500 birds per hectare
    • Queensland’s Animal Care & Protection Amendment Regulation sets a stocking density of 10,000 birds per hectare
  • SA  is introducing its own voluntary free range egg code

[1] What is an ‘information standard’? 

  • Under the Australian Consumer Law, a national information standard is designed to ensure consumers can make informed decisions about what they are purchasing.
  • Other national information standards in place include ingredient labelling on cosmetics and toiletries and care labels for clothing and textiles.
  • Under the Australian Consumer Law, the maximum penalties for supplying goods and services that do not comply with information standards are $1.1 million for a body corporate and $220,000 for an individual.

[2] CHOICE Free Range Egg Survey 2015

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