Israel to import duty-free eggs due to Salmonella fears

Israel’s health ministry decided that Israeli chicken farmers are not properly dealing with the salmonella danger and will therefore allow duty-free eggs to be imported.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The Ministry of Agriculture has decided, due to an expected shortage in the supply of Israeli eggs, that the market will be opened to imports, Israel Hayom reported Tuesday. The eggs will be duty-free in order to keep the price lower for consumers.

The impetus for the decision was the slow to non-existent reaction of poultry farmers to health restrictions and tighter cleanliness requirements which the agriculture ministry had set following an alarming report by Dr. Sagit Nagar, head of poultry diseases in its veterinary services unit.

The August report revealed that in an inspection lasting from June 2017 to April 2018, about a third of all eggs in Israel were found to be contaminated with salmonella, a disease of the intestinal tract which in severe cases can lead to death.

When contamination is traced back to a specific farm, all chickens there are killed. Some 10 percent of the country’s egg-laying stock have been destroyed as a result.

Israel’s government offered to aid the chicken owners in upgrading their facilities and raising sanitation levels.

However, Israel Hayom reports that Moshe Wein, adviser to the agriculture ministry’s director-general, sent a letter to his colleagues in which he explained that the growers’ representatives “did not agree to the terms of the [NIS 340 million] grant that the government offered.”

The decision to import eggs was therefore “forced” upon the ministry in order to “reduce the risk” to the population, according to the letter.

The ministry said that it will open the import quotas “in quantities matching the expected shortage, and import licenses will be issued with duty-free quotas for the first half of 2019. ”

Just last year, the health and agriculture ministries warned Israelis to destroy a record 11 million eggs that were suspected of having been infected with salmonella enteritidis, a more virulent strain of the bacteria.

The danger to the public was considered high as 3 percent of checked eggs were found to be tainted with the disease.