Though emerging cases of avian influenza have slowed in recent days, the disease’s impact has continued to take a toll on the U.S. egg supply, particularly the breaker market which supplies eggs to be broken for use in processed foods like cake and pancake mixes. To help alleviate the shortage, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) announced June 1 that The Netherlands had been reinstated to export pasteurized egg products to the U.S.
FSIS said The Netherlands was first deemed safe to export pasteurized egg products to the U.S. in 1987, but stopped exporting for several years. Last year, however, The Netherlands requested reinstatement in order to export pasteurized egg products to the U.S.
To ensure that the government inspection system was still capable of meeting U.S. standards, FSIS performed a rigorous process of verification of the laws, regulations, and inspection procedures maintained by The Netherlands, and conducted an on-site audit June 2-26, 2014. Upon completion, FSIS determined that the country’s food safety system was still equivalent to the U.S.
Egg processors in The Netherlands were expected to begin exporting as soon as export certificate language details were finalized.
The American Bakers Association (ABA) applauded the decision as many of its members have faced supply issues in recent weeks.
“We are very happy with the response from the USDA to expedite the approval of egg products from the Netherlands,” said Robb MacKie, ABA president and chief executive officer. “This swift response is a direct result of ABA members taking action to ensure that USDA and Congress react appropriately to this crisis.”
ABA said the U.S. egg market has been struggling to fulfill demand needs for bakers and other food producers.
“We are now at 35% of the egg product supply being taken offline due to the avian influenza. Opening imports from the Netherlands is a big step in the right direction, but more is needed,” said Cory Martin, ABA director of government relations. “We are facing a true crisis, and without additional actions to increase supply, bakers and many other food manufacturers face dire situations in the coming weeks and months,” added Martin.
University of Illinois agriculture economists John Newton and Todd Kuethe recently reported that egg prices have more than doubled in recent weeks due to supply shocks cause by avian influenza. In fact, when the bird flu infection rate peaked in May, they said breaker egg prices increased by 220% to over $2.00 per dozen (see figure).
“As a principle ingredient in many finished and prepared food products, higher egg prices are not easily passed along to the consumer and may result in higher costs of production for many food processors and restaurants,” they explained. “However, given current egg and feed prices, and the reinstatement of the Netherlands as an importer, the egg supply is expected to quickly adjust through imports and domestic production.”