Vet Dept to probe ‘unsanitary’ egg farm supplying to hypermarket chain

A Hong Kong-based animal protection foundation claims an egg farm is not following proper and sanitary methods. (Facebook pic)

GEORGE TOWN: The country’s veterinary regulators will investigate claims that an egg farm in Johor supplying to a major hypermarket chain in the country is said to have been operating under unsanitary and cruel conditions.

Department of Veterinary Services director-general Dr Quaza Nizamuddin Hassan Nizam said it would probe the claims immediately.

“As of now, it is presumptive, but we will be sending officers to investigate these claims which appear to be serious violations. If they are found to have violated the law, stern action awaits them,” he said when contacted.

Hong Kong-based Lever Foundation, an animal protection interest organisation, had claimed earlier this week that it had found an egg farm supplying to the Tesco chain of hypermarkets to be operating in unsavoury conditions.

The foundation claimed it had found rotting hens cramped with other hens in cages covered in animal faeces. It said this posed serious food safety risks.

It posted online a series of pictures and videos to prove the claims and even publicised the GPS coordinates of the farm.

It also criticised the hypermarket for getting its eggs from a supplier using “cruel” methods to rear chickens.

It said the hypermarket had pledged to supply “cage-free” eggs for customers in Europe and even Thailand but failed to follow this system in Malaysia.

“Malaysian customers deserve the same level of quality and food safety as customers in Thailand and Europe,” said the foundation’s programme manager Katherine Ma in a statement.

FMT has since emailed the egg farm and is awaiting its reply.

However, the company, in a Bursa listing today, said: “The company wishes to clarify that being one of the egg suppliers to Tesco Malaysia, eggs supplied under the Tesco brand in Malaysia have fully complied with the requirements of Department of Veterinary Services Malaysia.

“The chicken farms of the company are strictly operating under the guidelines of good farming practices, including hygiene control, rearing process, and health and safety of chickens.

“Besides, the company’s chicken farms are also accredited by the agriculture and agro-based industry ministry with the Malaysian Good Agricultural Practice (myGAP) certificate to validate our eggs are safe for consumption.

“The layer farming activity operating under the cage system is a common rearing system used in Malaysia, which is different from European countries.

“The health and safety requirements are not compromised in this system,” the statement read.

In an email to FMT, Tesco Malaysia said it was aware of the foundation’s findings and said all eggs sold at its stores met health and safety standards set by the government.

“We wish to clarify that all eggs sold in Tesco are sourced from local suppliers, in full compliance with national standards on quality and safety requirements, as set by the Department of Veterinary Services, agriculture and agro-based industry ministry and health ministry.

“Meanwhile, animal welfare is extremely important to us and we continue to engage with the government and suppliers to explore the opportunity of sourcing cage-free eggs in Malaysia. This will be achieved in tandem with the readiness of the industry and infrastructure of the nation.”