Egg sales have cruised through a double whammy of bad news.

Major retailers said it was business as usual, in spite of last week's negative headlines alleging fraudulent free-range labelling and high salmonella levels in Spanish imports.

The scandal hit Heart of England Eggs, a packer based in Bromsgrove in the West Midlands, when three people were arrested on suspicion of selling battery eggs as free-range. As many as 30m eggs could have been affected - nearly 2% of UK production.

One major retailer told The Grocer that no-one could say that they were unaffected by the case. But, he added, swift action to inspect free-range egg packers by Defra had shored up confidence and supplies.

Egg sales had had a lucky escape, said John Widdowson, of the British Free-Range Egg Producers Association. "It is a slur on the whole industry and gives us a bad name," he added. "We are as enraged as consumers."

Ideas for boosting consumer confidence were discussed on Thursday (23 November) at the association's annual conference.

Both issues emerge as French free-range eggs make their debut on supermarket shelves because British producers can't supply enough.

Egg major Deans is supplying the eggs as a stop-gap to Somerfield.

But Mr Widdowson said that retailers were making enquiries about sourcing abroad in the run up to Christmas.

"This situation has arisen because of the low returns for free-range producers from the retailers - an issue we've been warning about."

Some independent producers tried to make hay out of the fraud case by stressing their own traceability. "We have seen many more visitors to our website," said Lorna Chippindale, director of regional egg producer Chippindale Foods.