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Cage eggs sold locally a health hazard, groups say

2020-06-23 HKT 16:14
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  • Cage eggs sold locally a health hazard, groups say
Richard Pyne reports
Animal welfare organisations say they've uncovered serious food safety risks and extreme animal cruelty at farms that supply eggs to local supermarket chains Wellcome and Market Place.

The consumer and animal protection groups Equitas and the Lever Foundation say the supermarkets sell several brands of eggs produced from hens kept in cramped and filthy battery cages that could potentially be contaminated by wild birds passing overhead.

They say a 2007 study by the European Food Safety Authority found that the risk of salmonella contamination in cage eggs is up to 33-times greater than cage-free eggs.

Exposure to wild birds also heighten the risk of bird flu, they say.

The groups released footage from five farms in Taiwan, Singapore and Australia over the past 18 months, showing endless rows of chickens inside cramped battery cages, with hens, their eggs, and the cages smeared in faeces and filth.

Besides the health risk, the groups say the videos highlight long-standing animal welfare issues.

The hens are packed so tightly in metal crates that they can barely move or spread their wings.

The feathers of some hens have been scraped off because they are rubbing against cage bars, while others supposedly have foot problems from spending all their time on wire floors.

A campaign manager at Equitas, Bonnie Tang, says the parent company of the supermarket chains – Dairy Farm – should immediately follow in the footsteps of other multinational companies in committing to sell only cage-free eggs.

“The customers have a right to know what they’re buying… they should also enjoy buying cage-free eggs in the supermarkets without thinking too much and [having to check] all kinds of labels in different kind of egg products”, she said.

A program manager with the Lever Foundation, Lily Tse, says they conducted a market survey to see where multinational companies in Asia stand on this issue.

She says Dairy Farm ranked last in their list of major retailers, because other supermarkets have public commitments to go completely cage-free.

In its latest annual report, Dairy Farm says it committed to having its own-brand eggs be from cage-free sources by 2025 in Taiwan, and for all its "upscale food businesses" to follow suit by 2028.

But Tse says that's almost meaningless – and would cover only a tiny fraction of the eggs they sell.

RTHK has reached out to Dairy Farm for comment.