While making it clear that FGC does not wish to prejudge any aspect of what has taken place with regard to sales of eggs recently in the news, Katherine Rich says the purchase and sale of cage-produced eggs as free-range eggs are most unlikely to be a fault of any current laws, codes, or rules.

In response to media inquiries about recent allegations, she says rules about the production of eggs and their sale are clear and well-known by producers, while misleading claims or deceptive marketing issues are fully covered by the Fair Trading Act.

“With recent allegations under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office and potentially the subject of a Commerce Commission investigation or further inquiries, it is important that these investigations are allowed to take their course.”

Responses to questions by newsroom.co.nz are as follows:

Do you think current legislation and governance of free range egg labelling is effective? Why/not?

New Zealand has stringent and robust food production laws. The allegations that cage-produced eggs have been purchased and on-sold as free-range are most unlikely to be a fault of any current laws. The differences between free range and caged-egg production are clear. Animal welfare rules are clear, and New Zealand law prohibits misleading and deceptive marketing under the Fair Trading Act.  What’s alleged would be a breach of many rules. It would appear this issue isn’t about any confusion around definition, so any call to change rules when all the facts aren’t known would be premature.

 What action, if any, is FGC taking in response to the controversy? Please explain.

FGC has one member company producing eggs (Mainland) and we’ve reached out to that member to express support and offer assistance. We’ve also made contact with our sister organisations – the Poultry Industry Association of NZ and the Egg Producers Federation.

Do you think there needs to be new, blanket rules for the production, supply and sale that are regulated by one agency?

I don’t wish to prejudge in any way what has taken place. It’s really too soon to be asking this question when all the facts aren’t clear. The Serious Fraud Office investigation is not complete and the Commerce Commission has a complaint before it regarding the alleged behaviour. Outcomes from various investigations will indicate whether there is any need to make changes.

Do you support calls for a government inquiry into animal welfare label claims? Why/not?

It’s not clear what this would achieve over and above other investigations already in train. As I’ve said, the law is pretty clear in this area.

Do you support calls for egg stamping at source? Why/not?

FGC has no current position on egg-stamping, but on the face of it, it looks like a good idea. We’d have to consult our members further before establishing a final position.

Do you support calls for retailers to have to take more responsibility to ensure product claims are authentic? Please explain.

FGC does not represent Countdown, but we work alongside them and we know how committed its people are to providing New Zealanders with high quality, safe, nutritious food that they can trust.  Retailers rely on the integrity and honesty of suppliers and on their product claims being accurate, truthful and compliant with New Zealand law. Retailers also regularly undertake supplier audits where suppliers are asked to confirm that all their products comply with New Zealand law. Once again, it’s important to wait until all the facts are confirmed before drawing conclusions.