Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, has praised NSW egg producers for being ahead of the game and implementing new systems before egg stamping becomes mandatory from 26 November 2014.
Ms Hodgkinson said to protect public health in the event of a food poisoning outbreak, NSW egg producers will need to stamp each egg with a unique identifying mark that will enable traceability back to the farm where it was laid.
“This is part of a national standard for eggs that will help to reduce the impact of a food poisoning event,” Ms Hodgkinson said.
“Eggs are a quick and easy nutritious food, but when handled or prepared incorrectly they can become a quick and easy source of Salmonella, a leading cause of food poisoning.
“Traceability will ensure consumers are protected while benefitting the egg industry.
“In business your reputation is your livelihood and any delay in being able to identify the source of an outbreak reflects badly on the entire industry.
“It can result in a cost to all egg producers, whether that is through the loss of consumer confidence or the potential of having to withdraw safe product from the market place as a precaution if the cause can’t be identified.”
Ms Hodgkinson said while the national standard commenced in November 2012, the NSW Government gave egg producers a two-year grace period to enable them adequate time to budget for and implement the stamping requirements.
“I commend the many producers who have already come on board and remind those who have not yet done so to that there is now less than three months before stamping is mandatory,” Ms Hodgkinson said.
“In order to reduce the burden on those smaller operators who produce less than 1000 eggs per day, the NSW Food Authority is providing a free egg stamp and ink to help them meet the requirement.”
Ms Hodgkinson said the NSW Government will make regulatory amendments to ensure small businesses that produce less than 20 dozen eggs a week, and sell those eggs direct from the farm gate, will not be required to stamp.
“There will also be no requirement to stamp if the eggs are also used for fundraising purposes, where the eggs will be cooked. This is to ensure we target where the risk is highest, as in these circumstances traceability is certain,” Ms Hodgkinson said.
Ms Hodgkinson said eggs are one of the leading sources of Salmonella, between 2010 and 2014 and in NSW alone there were 40 food poisoning outbreaks associated with eggs, affecting more than 700 people, with many of those requiring hospitalisation.
“The NSW Food Authority plays a role in food safety at each step of the food chain from paddock to plate, and this on farm initiative is part of that protection,” Ms Hodgkinson said.
“This initiative is another example of the NSW Government’s efforts to protect consumer health by reducing the risk of food poisoning.
“Illness associated with food poisoning is a serious health problem in Australia with about 4.1 million cases per year, costing our health system $1.25 billion per year.”