THE government must reconsider its decision to exclude eggs as a sensitive sector in the recently agreed CPTPP trade agreement, industry groups have said.

The British Egg Industry Council, Compassion in World Farming and the RSPCA have slammed the government for apparently ignoring industry warnings.

The deal, signed in March between the UK and several countries in Asia and the Pacific, allows the import of eggs from countries using conventional battery cage systems.

This was made illegal in the UK in 2012, with the CPTPP agreement allowing for import tariffs on eggs and egg products to be phased out over a 10-year period.

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Egg products could be imported from countries like Mexico, a member of the CPTPP, which almost exclusively relies on battery cages for egg production.

Such imports would undercut British egg producers who operate to higher standards of animal welfare and food safety standards under the British Lion Code of Practice, the groups said.

The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) is a trade agreement between 11 nations: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

British Egg Industry Council chief executive, Mark Williams, said: “It is almost unbelievable that the government would let consumers down like this.

"Shoppers will be horrified to learn that eggs in their food products could soon be coming from battery cages more than a decade after they were banned here.

"To rubber stamp a deal which effectively sanctions the importation of eggs from conventional (battery) caged systems which are outlawed here is not only counter-intuitive, but it also completely undermines the countrywide standards that are adhered to by the UK egg industry."

This particularly affects the egg products sector which could see the importation of low welfare eggs, whilst UK egg farmers continue to invest in ensuring higher welfare standards for their birds.

The industry groups said the government must review the position of eggs and egg products to ensure they are granted sensitive status before the CPTPP deal is expected to be signed on July 16.

Dr Nick Palmer, head of Compassion in World Farming UK, said: “Without adequate tariffs to only allow imported eggs produced to UK standards, the doors will be wide open for powdered and liquid eggs from countries with lower or no animal welfare standards.

"This is not what UK consumers expect of our government, which promotes high standards of hen welfare, environmental protection and food safety.”