Feathers ruffled by egg regulations

Steve Sharratt comment@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on June 20, 2011
The Health Department is cracking down on numerous country stores and even senior homes to stop the sale of federally uninspected eggs, but Turning Point health food store owners Mary and Chris Mermuys have cooked up their own way to get around the regulations.
Guardian photo by Steve Sharratt

MONTAGUE - A local health food store here will no longer sell farm fresh eggs.

Instead, the Turning Point will give them away.

It's not a marketing ploy to boost sales, but a reaction to what the operators say has become an endless stream of rules and regulations.

"We can no longer sell eggs,'' said Chris Mermuys. "But we will sell you the carton with a dozen free eggs inside."

Mermuys and wife Mary have operated - and sold farm fresh eggs - for the past seven years from their Turning Point health food store here. But last week the inspector came calling from the Department of Health and handed them a cease and desist order. The store can no longer sell eggs because they are not federally inspected.

It was enough to hard boil Mermuys who is long time advocate of good farming methods and pesticide free crops. The couple want to meet with the Minister of Agriculture over the issue of too many rules and will continue to give away locally grown eggs - at $2.75 a dozen - for the price of the carton.

"We get our eggs from three local farmers who have been gathering eggs like people have been for the last few thousands years,'' said Mermuys. "But there are so many regulations now, we're being told to stop."

However, while the Turning Point can't sell the eggs, the rules allow the farmer to sell the same eggs at the farm gate or at a farmers' market. The Guardian sought government clarification but did not receive any information.

The Turning Point operators are not alone. The Department has also stepped in to stop uninspected eggs from being sold in other local country stores around the province and even senior care facilities as well.

"We had a meeting last week with the officials and they said if we wanted to open a federally inspected facility, we could continue to sell,'' said Mary. "They even said there was federal money available."

The health food store sells about 50 dozen a week and have no intention of obeying the health order. They say they regret having to break the law, but insist too many small farm producers are getting pushed to the wall with an abundance of rules and regulations that go far beyond fair play. They also have a public petition in their store filling up with names.

The Guardian contacted the Health Department but was advised any official dealing with the matter was unavailable until Tuesday.