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Coles sends ‘the wrong message’ with egg-buying limits

All you need to know about avian influenza

Source: World Health Organisation

Egg producers have accused Coles of “sending the wrong message” about Australia’s egg supply amid fears of a panic-buying resurgence.

Coles has limited egg purchases to two cartons per customer in every state except Western Australia due to a mounting H7N3 bird flu outbreak.

Five farms in Victoria have been hit by the avian influenza and placed into lockdown. So far, 580,000 birds have been destroyed to try to stop the disease spreading.

Coles said the limit was temporary, but did not say how long it was expected to last.

Woolworths and Aldi do not have limits on egg purchases and no other national stores have publicised limits.

Australian Eggs urged customers not to “flip out” and assured shoppers there were still hundreds of egg farms across the country maintaining the supply while those five farms recovered.

Managing director Rowan McMonnies said the industry was ensuring that 18 million eggs a day continued to be available.

“We know many Australians rely on eggs as a staple and it might be concerning to see signs of a shortage, but we want consumers to know that only a small part of the industry has been impacted,” McMonnies said.

“Purchase limits are double-edged. If a retailer has been impacted by the AI (avian influenza) incidents then it might be necessary for them but they can send the wrong message to consumers about broader egg supply.”

In the past seven weeks, the virus has been detected on five Victorian farms linked to Farm Pride, Avgo, Surf Coast Eggs and another business.

Australian Chicken Meat Federation chief executive Mary Wu said all affected farms produced eggs. She did not anticipate any noticeable effect on farms that produced chicken meat.

Authorities were confident they could get on top of the outbreak quickly and consumers should be assured it was still safe to eat eggs, Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said.

“There’s no risk of contaminated eggs getting into the system, the supply system,” Watt said on Monday

“It’s also important to remember that the strain of avian flu that we see in Victoria is not the particularly deadly strain that we have seen in other countries around the world, that’s the way we intend to keep it.”

Federal Health Minister Mark Butler said the chief medical officer had been regularly briefing him on the outbreak and stressed this variant did not cross over into humans.

Victorian minister Natalie Hutchins discouraged customers from panic-buying eggs, as commonly seen with toilet paper during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“They don’t need to stock up,” Hutchins said.

“We are the third biggest supplier around the nation as a state and we’ll continue to work with our farmers to make sure that pipeline of product is protected as much as possible.”

Victorian Farmers Federation vice-president and egg farmer Danyel Cucinotta said the industry was ramping up containment efforts to ensure eggs remained available. She advised customers to shop around.

“Victorian egg farmers are working hard to contain the risk of any further biosecurity outbreak and maintain a supply of fresh and affordable eggs,” Cucinotta said.

Avian influenza is a viral disease found across the globe that spreads between birds or when feed and equipment is moved between sites.

The US imposed restrictions on imports of Victorian eggs and poultry products.

-with AAP

Topics: Coles
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