European agriculture chiefs predicted Monday that more than 50 million battery hens will still be held next year in illegal cages, as Brussels threatened legal action against 11 states.
EU agriculture commissioner John Dalli told a meeting of farming ministers in Brussels that the eggs from more than 51 million hens will no longer be eligible for commercialisation as of January 1 next year.
That is when new European Union regulations that guarantee the hens at least 750 square centimetres of living space, if not a nest, a perch or free-range conditions, come into force.
Dalli said the Commission "will start opening infraction proceedings" against farmers that do not adapt to the new rules as soon as possible.
He said the 11 countries whose national authorities were likely to face written warnings were: Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Portugal and Romania.
"They have had several years to adapt," German farming minister Ilse Aigner said.
In recent weeks, Dalli had suggested the bulk sale of such eggs to national industries in the state in question.