GERMAN authorities are investigating possible large-scale fraud by organic egg producers amid increased concern over food industry practices following Europe’s horse meat scandal.
The northern state of Lower Saxony, a major agricultural hub, has launched inquiries into about 150 farms suspected of selling eggs produced by hens kept in overcrowded conditions under the organic label.
Two other states are investigating a further 50 farms.
German farm minister Ilse Aigner yesterday said: “If the accusations are found to be true, then we are talking of fraud on a grand scale: fraud against consumers, but also fraud against the many organic farmers in Germany who work honestly.”
She urged regional governments to ensure the full implementation of tough German and European Union laws on organic food production, adding that consumers must be able to have full confidence in the labelling of products.
Organically produced eggs cost 10 euro cents more than those produced under standard industrial conditions.
Christian Meyer, farm minister in the new Lower Saxony government, vowed to take a tough line on any farms found to have broken the law.
He said: “The suspicion is that this is a case of systematic fraud. It is no minor matter – it would be deception of consumers.”
Organic food is a huge industry in environmentally-conscious Germany, where many consumers are willing to pay extra for eggs, meat, vegetables and other products that have been produced organically.
Chickens and their eggs can only be described as free-range in Germany if each animal has at least four square metres of space to live in.