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Rules on marketing standards for eggs

Rules on marketing standards for eggs

 

SUMMARY OF:

Regulation (EC) No 589/2008 — marketing standards for eggs

WHAT IS THE AIM OF THIS REGULATION?

It sets out marketing standards for eggs* sold in the EU including egg grading, labelling, hen living conditions and record keeping.

It implements Council Regulation (EC) No 1234/2007 — which has been repealed and replaced by Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013 — on rules for the organisation of markets and trade in agricultural products in the EU, including marketing standards for a number of products such as eggs.

KEY POINTS

Eggs can be classified as either Class A or Class B.

Class A eggs must have the following characteristics:

  • a normal shaped shell that is clean and undamaged;
  • an air space inside the egg no bigger than 6 mm;
  • a yolk that does not have a clearly visible outline and is slightly mobile upon turning the egg;
  • the white must be clear and translucent;
  • the egg must not contain foreign matter or smells;
  • the egg must not display germ development.

Class A eggs must not be washed or cleaned before or after grading, and they must not be treated for preservation or chilled below 5°C.

Class A eggs are graded by weight:

  • XL - more than 72 g,
  • L - 63-72 g,
  • M - 53-62 g,
  • S - less than 53 g.

Class B eggs are those that do not meet the quality thresholds of class A eggs, or they are Class A eggs that have been downgraded.

Only packing centres can grade and pack eggs, and label their packs*. Packing centres must have the appropriate equipment to grade and mark the eggs. Eggs must be graded, marked and packed within 10 days of laying.

Egg transport packaging must be marked with:

  • the producer’s name and address,
  • the producer code,
  • the number of eggs and/or their weight,
  • the laying date or period,
  • the date of dispatch.

Packs containing Class A eggs must be marked with the farming method used and the date of minimum durability - not more than 28 days after laying.

Eggs can be labelled as ‘free range eggs’, ‘barn eggs’ or ‘eggs from caged hens’. Free-range hens must have continuous daytime access to open-air runs; however, farmers may sometimes restrict access in the mornings in accordance with good animal husbandry practice. ‘Eggs from caged hens’ means that the hens have been kept in enriched cages*, as battery cages (known as ‘unenriched’ cages) are prohibited in the EU since 2012 (Council Directive 1999/74/EC — protection of laying hens).

If the EU adopts measures to protect public health that require hens to be kept inside, such as during outbreaks of avian influenza, eggs may still be marketed as ‘free-range’ provided that the restriction to open air runs does not exceed 16 weeks continuously.

Open-air runs must be mainly covered with vegetation and not used for other purposes other than orchards, woodland and livestock grazing.

The maximum stocking density of open-air runs must not be greater than 2,500 hens per hectare or one hen per 4 m2.

The words ‘extra’ or ‘extra fresh’ may be used to indicate higher quality on Class A eggs until 9 days after laying.

References can be made to cereal-fed hens when cereals account for at least 60% of the feed formula.

Egg producers must keep records on:

  • the farming method used,
  • the number and age of hens,
  • the date of culling and number of hens culled,
  • the number or weight of eggs sold per day,
  • the names and addresses of purchasers.

EU countries must appoint inspectors to carry out compliance checks.

FROM WHEN DOES THE REGULATION APPLY?

It has applied since 1 July 2008.

BACKGROUND

For more information, see:

KEY TERMS

Egg: eggs in a shell — other than broken, incubated or cooked eggs — that are produced by the hen species Gallus gallus and are fit for human consumption or for the preparation of egg products.
Pack: a wrapping containing Class A or B eggs, excluding transport packaging and containers of industrial eggs (eggs not intended for human consumption).
Enriched cages: cages that have been modified to address some of the welfare concerns of battery cages, while retaining some of the economic and husbandry advantages of non-cage systems.

MAIN DOCUMENT

Commission Regulation (EC) No 589/2008 of 23 June 2008 laying down detailed rules for implementing Council Regulation (EC) No 1234/2007 as regards marketing standards for eggs (OJ L 163, 24.6.2008, pp. 6-23)

Successive amendments to Regulation (EC) No 589/2008 have been incorporated in the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.

RELATED DOCUMENTS

Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 establishing a common organisation of the markets in agricultural products and repealing Council Regulations (EEC) No 922/72, (EEC) No 234/79, (EC) No 1037/2001 and (EC) No 1234/2007 (OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, pp. 671-854)

See consolidated version.

Council Directive 1999/74/EC of 19 July 1999 laying down minimum standards for the protection of laying hens (OJ L 203, 3.8.1999, pp. 53–57)

See consolidated version.

last update 27.02.2018

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