Germany investigates organic egg 'fraud'

Free-range chicken look at an egg on a farm in Seefeld, southern Germany
Image caption Organic eggs must meet strict regulations

German authorities are investigating allegations of fraud over the mislabelling of eggs as organic.

The northern state of Lower Saxony has launched an investigation into allegations that 150 farms had mislabelled their eggs.

It is claimed that the hens live in conditions that do not conform to organic regulations.

The farm minister said that if the accusations are proved to be true, it would be "fraud on a grand scale".

Farm Minister Ilse Aigner said in a statement that the mislabelling of eggs would be "fraud against consumers but also fraud against the many organic farmers in Germany who work honestly".

She urged regional governments to ensure the full implementation of tough German and EU laws on organic food production.

The investigations come as Europe's food industry has been engulfed by a meat processing and labelling scandal after multiple processed meat products labelled as beef were revealed to contain quantities of horsemeat.

An additional 50 farms in two other German states are also under investigation for mislabelling eggs as organic.

Organic food is increasingly popular in Germany and consumers are willing to pay a premium for products they believe conform to strict standards.

Two years ago, a European Union-wide health alert was sparked when German officials said animal feed tainted with dioxin had been fed to hens and pigs, contaminating eggs, poultry meat and pork at affected farms.