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Europe Deals With Organic Egg Scandal on top of Horse Meat Problems

Add organic eggs to Europe’s ongoing food scandals.

As many as 150 German and 36 Dutch poultry farms are being investigated for fraud involving organic eggs. Led by prosecutors in Oldenburg, Germany, the investigation is looking into violations of organic rules for free-range egg production.

To sell “free range” eggs in Germany requires meeting specific time requirements for populations of hens being kept on the farm. The “free range” status is lost if too many animals are kept during the same time period.

“We suspect that there has been systematic fraud on a large scale and it is a serious crime,” says Christian Meyer, the new Green Party agricultural minister of Lower Saxony,

The investigation has been ongoing since 2011. Records of organic poultry practices are spotty. Violations could bring both fines and prison sentences.

The Dutch poultry farms are suspected of supplying laying hens to the Germans using a double book-keeping system and fake bills. This allowed the German poultry farms to show that had fewer chickens on their farms than they in fact did.

This system allegedly allowed the German poultry farms to label eggs as organic, fetching higher prices, when they in fact kept too many chickens not raised according to organic specifications.

Eggs sold in the European Union (EU) are stamped to show the country and farm where they came from along with whether the hens they came from were organically, free range or caged raised.

Rules for each category are strict. Organic advocates believe German poultry farms have had too many chickens, but have not misrepresented the type of farm. EU consumers generally view organic eggs as coming from the “happiest chickens” because they have better feed and space to run around. They pay a premium for those eggs.

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