Free-range egg ban shuts bed and breakfast

A P.E.I. bed and breakfast that has been operating for decades has decided to close down next year rather than stop serving eggs from its own hens.
Paul Offer gather eggs from his 75 hens twice a day, but he won't be able to serve them at his bed and breakfast any longer. (CBC)

A P.E.I. bed and breakfast that has been operating for decades has decided to close down next year rather than stop serving eggs from its own hens because of a government order.

The Doctor's Inn in Tyne Valley, northwest of Summerside, also operates an organic farm. Paul and Jean Offer sell their organic vegetables and free-range eggs at the Charlottetown Farmers Market, and offer the produce to customers at the Doctor's Inn at breakfast and dinner time.

But after years of serving their own eggs, the provincial Department of Health has told them they have to stop. The department said it's a long-standing policy that food service operations can only use federally inspected eggs.

The idea of having to buy eggs from the supermarket, rather than use their own from the 75 hens in the coop out back, was too much for the Offers. They will operate this season, and then close the business down.

"When the Department of Health came around and said, 'No, you're not allowed to use your own eggs, you have to use store bought ones, or inspected ones,' we just turned around," said Paul Offer.

"Jean and I are getting older, we just looked at one another and said, 'OK, that's it, we're out of business.'"

Joe Bradley, manager of environmental health for the Department of Health, said the main issue with eggs that aren't federally inspected is the risk of salmonella contamination.

"The problem is that there's the potential for handling a contaminated product," said Bradley.

"You contaminate your hands, and the hands aren't washed. A food preparation surface may be contaminated."

No crackdown

Bradley said the rule has been the same for close to 20 years, and there's no crackdown.

The ban on free-range eggs has been in place for close to 20 years, says the Department of Health. (CBC)

But the Doctor's Inn is not the only well-established business to recently learn of this rule. Six weeks ago, the By the River Bakery and Café in Hunter River was told it had to stop using free-range, uninspected eggs.

"Our work is always prevention," said Bradley.

"Why take the chance when you have the ability to purchase a product from a government-approved source?"

Offer said he inspects all his eggs and believes they are safe. He and his wife Jean eat the eggs, and have never been sick. He has never had a complaint in many years of selling them at the Charlottetown Farmers Market.

And, in his opinion, they taste better too.