The British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) has embarked on a bid to challenge the UK government on its refusal to ban imports of illegally-produced battery cage eggs and egg products.

According to the BEIC, British egg producers have invested £400m on phasing out barren battery cages, to meet the requirements of EU legislation, which came into force on 1 January 2012.

However, it said producers in 13 other EU countries, including Spain, Italy and Poland, have not fully complied with the ban and it is estimated that around one-quarter of EU cage egg production will be illegal, with more than 50 million hens still being kept in barren battery cages.

The BEIC said the government has refused to impose a ban on imports of illegal battery eggs and egg products, so it has now taken the first step in the Judicial Review process – a pre-action protocol letter – asking Defra to give a fuller explanation for its decision and to review its current position.

The BEIC’s legal advice is that the government has incorrectly interpreted the law, it added.

Andrew Parker, chairman, BEIC commented: “We’re asking the government to conduct proper checks of imported eggs, egg products and products containing eggs entering UK ports, egg packing stations, processing plants, importers and wholesalers. Otherwise, UK consumers could be eating eggs from illegal battery hens, and British egg producers will be seriously undermined, with the possible loss of thousands of jobs.

“EU member states have had more than 12 years to get their houses in order and comply with the new legislation, so there are no excuses.”

>> Government blasted on egg promise