Supermarket limits egg sales: what does it mean?

Consumers are being warned to brace themselves for egg shortages for months, despite farmers saying there are no problems with supply.

Coles has announced a two-carton limit in response to the bird flu outbreak in Victoria. Bird flu has been found on five farms in Victoria and about a million chickens have been killed to control the disease. The limit applies to all states except Western Australia.

The supermarket says it cannot put a time limit on the restriction.  

“We are working closely with all of our suppliers to ensure eggs remain available for our customers and we are providing support to the industry in responding to the avian flu cases in Victoria,” a Coles spokesperson said.

Coles is the only supermarket group to impose the limits.

Farmers in the affected areas are being allowed to sell stockpiled eggs.

Still plenty of eggs

Leading industry body Australian Eggs has reassured customers that there are still plenty of eggs to go around.

Australian Eggs said there were hundreds of egg farms around the country to fill the gap while the affected farms recover.

“These avian influenza incidents will cause some disruption to egg supply as retailers reorganise their supply, but purchase limits or patchy supermarket shelves do not indicate a nation-wide shortage,” said Australian Eggs managing director Rowan McMonnies.

“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 by AI [avian influenza] and other egg farms are working hard to ensure over 18 million eggs continue to be available every day.

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

The egg industry is working with authorities to eradicate avian influenza in Victoria.

Victorian Farmers Federation vice-president Danyel Cucinotta told the ABC that farmers at the centre of the outbreaks were enduring a “horrific couple of weeks”.

“Unfortunately, this is going to be an ongoing threat for not only eggs but the chicken meat industry in Australia,” she said. 

“My advice, or my suggestion, would always be eggs are available. It’s just probably not in the places that you know and love.”

What is bird flu

Bird flu, or avian influenza, is a highly infectious disease of birds and is caused by several strains of the virus.

While it easily spreads between wild and domestic bird breeds, it rarely spreads to humans. Human victims have usually been in close contact with infected birds such as handling their feathers or poo.

You cannot contract it from eating fully cooked poultry or eggs.

Migrating wild birds are suspected to be the carrier to domestic birds.

Other mammals can also contract bird flu and, now, as well as outbreaks in poultry, the US is dealing with outbreaks in dairy cows that have led to several cases of infected dairy workers. There are no person-to-person transmissions in the current US outbreak.

The common symptoms of bird flu include conjunctivitis and mild respiratory distress, but in some cases it can have similar symptoms to human flu including fever, fatigue, coughing, muscle aches, sore throat, runny nose and headaches.

Have you noticed a shortage of eggs? Why not share your experience in the comments section below?

Also read: Give your scrambled eggs an upgrade

Jan Fisher
Jan Fisher
Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.
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