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Cracks appear in MP’s EU egg box myth

by Luke Lythgoe | 04.03.2016

Maria Caulfield MP took to Twitter recently to denounce the “red tape madness” the EU “inflicts” on small businesses in the UK. Her gripe? A supposed regulation forbidding the re-use of egg boxes.

The Lewes MP posted an image of a printed note a local East Sussex farmer had sent to customers. It read: “Current EEC (sic.) regulations prevent us from re-using empty egg boxes,” urging customers to recycle the boxes instead.

There are no European Commission regulations specifically prohibiting re-use of egg boxes.

A 2004 regulation on foodstuff hygiene covers storage and packing operations, says packaging must not be a “source of contamination”, and must be easy to clean or disinfect.

A 2008 regulation mentions egg boxes – they must be “shock-resistant, dry, clean and in good repair”. But it does not forbid their re-use.

There is, however, a UK rule. DEFRA – the government department responsible for food – has published a voluntary code of practice to prevent salmonella, which can be transmitted by infected raw eggs. Cardboard egg trays should be “ideally used only once” and, if re-use is unavoidable, should “ideally only be used in the same house or premises”.

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The code was drawn up with input from the industry itself, including the British Egg Industry Council, the British Veterinary Poultry Association and the National Farmers’ Union. However, as it is voluntary, small-scale egg farmers in East Sussex are not bound by it.

The EU Commission, aided by scientific advisers, is responsible for approving salmonella control programmes proposed by members states. But it seems a stretch to refer to any of these rules – UK or EU – as “red tape madness”.

Salmonella from infected raw egg can survive long periods on packaging, so recommending appropriate hygiene practices seems a sensible precaution.

Edited by Yojana Sharma