Ian Jones, chairman of British Lion Egg processors, looks at regaining consumer trust following the fipronil contamination scandal
The fipronil scandal has brought ‘hidden’ ingredients in prepared food into the public eye, and consumers don’t like what has been revealed - in particular the widespread use of imported eggs in food products.
Research shows consumers want British eggs to be used in food products where egg is an ingredient, as well as labelling so prepared foods that have been made with British eggs can be clearly identified on the shelf.
There is a clear gap in standards between the stringent requirements British Lion egg processors follow, and those of egg processors outside the UK. Long, complicated supply chains are not conducive to product security and traceability. Until manufacturers reject a situation where eggs can be produced in one country, processed in another, and sent somewhere else to be used as an ingredient in a final product before that product is sold to consumers somewhere else entirely, they are leaving themselves open to additional risks.
To regain consumer trust it is vital that the egg industry and bakery food manufacturers work together to show consumers the food they are producing is safe to eat by using British Lion egg products and clearly showing on pack where the egg has been sourced. I’m delighted to say we’ve already had enquiries asking for the British Lion eggs logo to be used on products.
We recognise egg can constitute a major or very minor part of many foods in bakery, so it is not realistic to put labelling on all food products containing egg, but if we start with products where egg is a major ingredient, such as quiche, egg sandwiches or cakes, it will go a long way to reassuring consumers and supporting sales.
As well as clear labelling, the other topic to address is availability of egg products, something that is often suggested, incorrectly, to be an immovable barrier to committing to British eggs. Egg is processed to meet demand, so if demand increases so will production. All we need is a commitment from the manufacturer and then in the short term we can look at allocating more eggs to processing, and in the longer-term we can expand egg production by increasing the size of our laying flocks.
With the uncertainty of supply chains post-Brexit looming, and consumers demanding British eggs and clear labelling on prepared foods containing egg, there is no time for excuses. The egg industry and food manufacturers need to work together to ensure we can give consumers the food they want to eat.