Free-range eggs slashed from supermarket shelves – why you can’t buy them right now

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Free-range eggs will vanish from UK shops this week, with packaging changing in line with new, temporary food regulations. The move comes after fears surrounding the bird flu virus.

Since November, birds have not been able to roam freely outside to try and stop the spread of the bird flu virus.

Britain’s free-range chickens have been moved indoors since the spike in cases as a precautionary measure.

However, as a result, egg boxes and cartons have had to remove any “free-range” labelling to reflect the fact the eggs were not laid outdoors.

Shops, supermarkets and suppliers must now label boxes as “barn eggs” to reflect where they were laid.

The term barn eggs simply mean the eggs were laid in an indoor environment.

Free-range eggs, on the other hand, mean the eggs were laid by birds which are permitted to roam outdoors.

The National Farmers’ Union has assured that this is a temporary measure which will be reversed once “risk levels have reduced”.

According to the British Retail Consortium, shops will provide signage to explain the reason behind the current change in packaging.

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They added: “When the current measures are lifted, eggs will go back to being free-range.”

Aimee Mahony, the National Farmers’ Union’s chief poultry adviser, said: “Shoppers may notice different labels on egg packs explaining the eggs have been laid by hens temporarily housed to protect their health and welfare.

“Once the risk levels have reduced and the housing measures have been lifted by Defra, birds will be able to go outside again.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Foodfi and Rural Affairs said: “The 16-week grace period we allowed for free-range eggs has now been exceeded, and eggs must now be marketed as ‘barn eggs’.

“We have worked closely with the sector and retailers to implement these changes as smoothly as possible.”

There had been hopes the Government would lift the housing order this month, but new avian flu outbreaks in the past week has seen officials extend the order.

The UK has not been alone in being affected by avian flu outbreaks this year.

Continental Europe has also suffered one of its worst outbreaks of the disease this past winter.

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