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Prosecutors crack 'systematic egg fraud'
Photo: DPA

Prosecutors crack 'systematic egg fraud'

Published: 25 Feb 2013 08:07 GMT+01:00
Updated: 25 Feb 2013 08:07 GMT+01:00

Prosecutors are investigating around 200 German egg farmers suspected of falsely labelling their produce as organic or free-range, in what has been described as fraud on a massive scale.

It would seem that millions of eggs had been sold under false pretences over the last few years, exploiting the willingness of some customers to pay extra for produce from more humanely kept birds.

Prosecutors in Oldenburg, Lower Saxony, told Der Spiegel magazine they were investigating around 150 firms in that state and around 50 elsewhere. Frauke Wilken, spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office told the magazine that initial investigations had begun in the autumn of 2011, and had revealed ever more suspect operations.

"The suspicion is that this is a case of systematic fraud. It is no minor matter - it would be deception of consumers," said Christian Mayer, the new Lower Saxony agriculture minister.

He said if the suspicions were proven, he would move to withdraw operation licenses from the relevant farms.

Those under suspicion were largely conventional farms, but some organic farms were also affected.

Chickens and their eggs can only be described as free-range if each animal has access to at least four square metres of space, while the description organic, or "bio" in German, requires further specific conditions.

Should any farmers be convicted of breaking the food produce and animal feed laws or organic farming laws, they could be fined or even imprisoned for up to a year. Charges of fraud could also be pressed.

DPA/The Local/hc

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

09:25 February 25, 2013 by twisted
How about withdrawing their license(s) and a nice big fine, something large enough so that the farmers know the government is serious about stopping this type of fraud.
10:22 February 25, 2013 by McM
What a yolk. More evidence of German inability to label their food correctly. How can the great BIO ( Big Investment Oportunity) scam survive and their sheepish customer base stay happy if there is so many differentiation cock ups going on in the food industry. You would have be naive to believe it was never the case.
12:13 February 25, 2013 by AlexR
"Systematic fraud" in Germany? I am shocked. I thought that only Greece, Italy and the other southern Europeans are corrupted while Germany is the beacon of transparency and honesty.

Seriously though, this kind of fraud was only a matter of time to be revealed. The last 5 years, the market is flooded with "BIO" products. Even at the discount supermarkets you find more BIO eggs, milk and meat than the "normal" ones, while the price is only slightly higher. Those two observations are more than sufficient to make anyone suspicious about the real origin of those "organic" products.
14:47 February 25, 2013 by Berlin fuer alles
I always thought I was getting eggs laid by hens who were hand-reared by Buddhist monks on the Ganges delta. How could I have been so wrong? / Sarchasm
16:13 February 25, 2013 by Chalkster
@Berlin fuer alles.

Your daily comments triple my enjoyment of reading the local. I think the editors should give you your own column, where you could give a sarcastic, yet humourous, breakdown on the days news. Keep up the good work as not only do you hit the hammer square on the head, you bring many people a good laugh in these often too depressing times.
16:39 February 25, 2013 by Berlin fuer alles
@Chalkster

TL prefer to remove my comments so I doubt they would offer me my own column. In any case if they did it would likely be on an internship basis. But thanks for the good feedback in any case. Life is too short to be taken too serious but is also too short to keep one's head buried in the sand.
22:00 February 25, 2013 by bwvilla
@Berlin fuer alles

If you make the same comment against enough articles, eventually someone will laugh.

c.f. The horse meat from Poland article.

Yawn...
23:03 February 25, 2013 by Berlin fuer alles
@bwvilla

It applied to both articles so I made it on both articles. TL articles tend to repeat themselves a lot anyway. Yawn!
23:32 February 25, 2013 by US-TommyBoy
Over here in the states, I was always going to get a dozen chicks in the spring and feed them until they were big enough to fend for themselves and set them free in the neighborhood. Then we could all have free range chickens and eggs.

I didn't want to do the time for the crime, so I eat chemo eggs and chickens.

With all of the genetically modified corn and soybeans, if they feed them a kernel of either they aren't organic chickens, but they possible could be free range.

I hope you guys get the government to test the chickens that are free range for genetically modified grain in them.
23:33 February 25, 2013 by ChrisRea
@ AlexR

Of course fraud and corruption are to be found in any country, including Germany. Still Greece remains the champion, where apparently half of the population practices tax evasion, as a recent survey shows (http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite2_1_24/02/2013_484413). "The findings point to the fact that many Greeks still do not see tax dodging as a bad thing"
23:48 February 25, 2013 by Staticjumper
I wish the article described how this case came to light in the first place. Did a customer crack open some fraudulent "organic/free-range" eggs for breakfast and immediately notice the difference in color or smell? Did the eggs have a different taste or unusual texture? Other than labeling and, of course, price is there any way the customer can tell the obviously superior organic/free-range egg from standard eggs?
00:28 February 26, 2013 by grazhdanin
'humanely' means 'imprisoned' and 'exploited'?
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