Eggs: trade regulations
The Eggs and Chicks (England) Regulations 2009 cover most aspects of egg production, marking, transport, grading, packing and onward marketing.
The regulations apply to eggs from laying hens sold for human consumption. They also cover hatching, farmyard poultry chicks, and in shell for human consumption, hen, turkey, goose, duck, and guinea fowl eggs.
Nearly all laying hen establishments must be registered and allocated a distinguishing number, and almost all eggs sold at retail level within the EU must be marked with a code identifying the establishment, country of origin and method of production.
This guide is aimed at businesses involved in the production of hen eggs for human consumption, including hen laying establishments and egg packing centres. It explains regulations on the marketing and trading of eggs, registration, egg marking and inspections, salmonella and egg quality. It also covers rules relating to the international trade of eggs.
Registration of laying hen establishments
The Registration of Establishments (Laying Hens) Regulations 2003 require all laying hen establishments with 350 or more laying hens - whether from caged, barn, free range or organic egg-producing hens - to be registered with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra’s) Egg Marketing Inspectorate (EMI).
You must also register with EMI as a producer if:
- you have 50 or more hens and any of your eggs are marketed at a local public market
- any of your eggs are marketed to registered packing centres
Note too that if you sell eggs to shops, restaurants or bakeries, you will need to be approved and authorised as a packing centre by EMI in order to be permitted to grade them as Class A eggs.
Registration with the EMI is free. The EMI will then allocate your establishment with a distinguishing number which is made up of:
- a digit indicating the farming method
- the country of origin ISO code
- a unique identification number for the establishment
This number must be stamped on all eggs graded as Class A.
You can also find EMI guidance and forms on the AHVLA website.
Great Britain Poultry Register
If you keep more than 50 poultry of any kind - and of any mix - you must register separately with the Great Britain Poultry Register. For information on how to register and comply with legislation for keeping broiler chickens, laying hens and other poultry species, see Poultry farms: general regulations.
Egg marking regulations
The Egg (Marketing Standards) Regulations requires that all Class (Grade) A eggs sold at retail level and public markets within the EU must be stamped with a code identifying the:
- method of production - eg organic, free range, barn or cage
- country of origin
- hen laying establishment
There are a few exceptions - the regulations do not apply in full to hen eggs sold directly to the consumer for their own use:
- by the producer on their own farm
- by the producer through door-to-door selling
- by the producer in a local public market
In these circumstances, no use of the quality or weight grading terms may be made.
Stamping eggs tells the consumer where the eggs have come from and their level of quality. It can also help Defra’s egg marking inspectors to trace eggs and enforce EU Egg Marketing Regulations. This can be particularly useful in the event of an infectious disease outbreak.
If you have fewer than 50 birds and sell at a public market you do not have to mark your eggs with a producer code. However, you must display your name, address, the best before date and advice on how to keep eggs chilled after purchase. You should also be aware that individual markets still may have their own rules which require the stamping of a producer code on hen eggs.
If you have 50 or more hens you will need to be registered and stamp eggs with your producer code along with the best before date and advice to keep eggs chilled after purchase.
The Lion Mark
The Lion Mark indicates that eggs are produced to a stringent code of practice operated by the British Egg Industry Council. Around 85 per cent of UK eggs are stamped with the British Lion Mark accreditation.
The Laid in Britain Scheme is a consortium of independent egg producers and packers which markets locally and regionally with traceable produce. Read about the Laid in Britain Scheme and the UK Egg Producers (UKEP) Association on the Laid in Britain website.
Egg marketing inspectors
EMIs are responsible for enforcing the legislation which covers the production and marketing of eggs up to, but not including, retail and catering level. However, EMIs can carry out inspections at retail and catering premises if required.
EMIs are part of AHVLA, which is an executive agency of Defra and is responsible for ensuring the welfare of farmed animals in the UK.
EMIs work throughout England and Wales, wherever hen eggs are produced, graded, packed, imported and marketed in any way and at hatcheries. Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own inspectors. For more information on work and processes, you can call the EMI South Administrative Centre on Tel 01823 337 922 or call the EMI North Administrative Centre on Tel 0113 230 0100.
Regulations relating to salmonella control
Salmonella infection in eggs is a common cause of food poisoning in humans and can cause serious illness. In the case of poultry, there is a possibility of transmission of infection in or on eggs from both breeding and laying flocks. However, the industry has done a lot to minimise risks, and the introduction of regulations has further helped to improve the control and prevention of salmonella.
The Eggs and Chicks (England) Regulations 2009 introduced salmonella-related controls on the use of eggs intended for human consumption, in accordance with the salmonella National Control Programme (NCP) for laying hens.
The requirements of the NCP apply to all operators producing eggs on a commercial basis, except where:
- all production is for private domestic use
- the holding has fewer than 350 hens and supplies direct to the consumer or via local retailers
All flocks on premises with more than 350 laying hens must comply with the salmonella NCP. Official sampling is done by AHVLA egg marketing inspectors, except for producers in either the:
- British Egg Industry Council Lion Code
- UK Egg Producer Retailer Association Laid in Britain schemes
You must not market eggs for human consumption which have originated from flocks:
- infected with salmonella enteritidis or salmonella typhimurium
- of ‘unknown health status’ (not tested according to the NCP) - unless those eggs are heat-treated (pasteurised) to eliminate the salmonella
Keepers of laying flocks are also required to follow a sampling and testing programme set out in the NCP to assess whether salmonella is present on-farm.
For more information, see Poultry farming: health regulations.
Disposal of poultry waste including surplus and waste eggs
If you keep more than 40,000 poultry - including chickens, layers, pullets, turkeys, ducks and guinea fowl - you must apply to the Environment Agency for an environmental permit to operate your facility. For more information, see non-hazardous waste: treatment and disposal.
Regardless of the number of poultry you keep, you will have a duty of care to responsibly manage waste from your operations.
The disposal of any waste or surplus eggs comes under the control of the Animal By-Products Regulations, which control any eggs that are not sent for processing within the food or non-food industries. You are not permitted to dispose of whole or parts of eggs as general waste, use them for land spreading or send them to landfill.
You must instead dispose of waste at premises approved under Animal By-Products Regulations, which may include individual approved incinerators on your own egg-producing site.
Every part of an egg is considered at least as Category 3 waste - ie low risk, although in some the high risk Category 2 might apply - eg eggs from hens showing signs of transmissible disease - which places further restrictions on disposal options.
If you are exporting eggs from, or importing eggs into, the UK, from third countries, there are EU regulations you need to follow. This includes regulations which determine:
- any payments made to exporters of eggs and poultry products from the EU
- the level of duty applicable to imports into the EU
Levels of duty, excise and VAT
Eggs and egg products for import and export need to be classified with a commodity code.
For information on import duty, excise and VAT, call the HMRC VAT Helpline on Tel 0845 010 9000.
Exporting out of the EU
Third countries - outside the EU - will impose duties or tariffs on many imported products. You can find information detailing import duties for a wide range of products on the European Commission’s Market Access Database website.
You may need an export licence to export eggs and egg products.
You may also need an export health certificate and should contact AHVLA’s Central Operations for Exports team. You can contact them at the following address:
AHVLA Hadrian House Wavell Drive Rosehill Ind Estate Carlisle CA1 2TB
You can also contact them by email
Alternatively, you can call the AHVLA International Trade Centre on Tel 01228 403 600 or fax them on 01228 591900.
The Eggs and Chicks Regulations allow exports under different labelling conditions to meet the demands of the destination country.
Financial support for exporters
Under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the supply and pricing of certain egg and poultry products, including day-old chicks, hatching eggs and egg ingredients in certain processed goods, is ensured and kept competitive by export refunds. You can find out about the current export refunds for egg and poultry products on the RPA website.
You can also read exporting CAP goods.
Importing into the EU
The European Community has drawn up a list of third countries from which EU member states may import eggs for human consumption. You are not allowed to import eggs from countries not on the list.
If you import from a third country and want to find out if the eggs come from an establishment approved for exporting egg or poultry products to the EU, you can search the approved establishments list on the Europa website.
For more information on import requirements, you can download ET6 - the trader’s guide to importing and exporting eggs and egg products from the RPA website (PDF, 82KB). In some cases you may need an import licence to import eggs and egg products. You can contact the RPA by email for information on import licence arrangements.
Finding out more about eggs
For more information and guidance on the regulations relating to the marketing and trading of eggs, the sources listed below may be useful.
One of the major roles of the Defra is to help the farming industry operate as efficiently as possible. Defra administers European support policies that provide around £3 billion to UK agriculture. You can call the Defra Helpline on Tel 08459 33 55 77.
AHVLA is an executive agency of Defra and their egg marketing inspectors are responsible for compliance inspections and enforcement of these Regulations. AHVLA is also responsible for the animal health aspects of imports of eggs and egg products and more broadly for managing outbreaks of notifiable animal diseases and helping to ensure suitable standards of egg and dairy production are met. You can call the AHVLA Information Line on Tel 0844 884 4600 or contact the EMI South Administrative Centre on Tel 01823 337 922 or call the EMI North Administrative Centre on Tel 0113 230 0100.
There are 23 AHVLA Offices. You should contact them if you have any suspicions of disease in your farm animals. For contact details of your local AHVLA Office use the postcode search tool on the AHVLA website.
In England, the Farm Advisory System advises farmers about cross compliance. For further information, call the Cross Compliance Helpline on Tel 0845 345 1302. Alternatively, find information on cross compliance requirements on the Cross Compliance website.
The Food Standards Agency is responsible for European Community regulations in the egg and poultry sector within the UK. You can find out about the work and services of the Food Standards Agency on its website.
The RPA is responsible for licences and schemes for growers as well as for running the Single Payment Scheme. For more information about the Single Payment Scheme and how it can help your farming business, you can call the RPA Helpline on Tel 0845 603 7777.
If you are involved in the SPS, you need to be aware of cross compliance restrictions that are relevant to egg production.
Assurance schemes provide assurance to consumers on the conditions of production and origin of particular foods. They are voluntary organisations, developed by the poultry industry to ensure that standards of welfare, traceability, husbandry, storage and other aspects of production are met to increase consumer confidence.
The following assurance schemes are available:
- Lion Quality mark - read about the Lion Quality Mark for eggs on the British Lion eggs website
- Laid in Britain - read information about the Laid in Britain Scheme and the UKEP Association on the Laid in Britain website
Natural England is a public body which gives advice aimed at helping to conserve and enhance the natural environment. It was formed by combining work previously carried out by English Nature, the Countryside Agency and the Rural Development Service. Find environmental advice on the Natural England website.
The National Farmers’ Union represents the farmers and growers of England and Wales. It aims to promote successful and socially responsible agriculture and horticulture, while ensuring the long-term viability of rural communities.
08459 33 55 77
EMI North Administrative Centre
0113 230 0100
EMI South Administrative Centre
01823 337 922
HMRC Tariff Classification Service Enquiry Line
01702 366 077
Animal Health International Trade Centre
01228 403 600
0845 603 7777
Natural England Enquiry Service
0845 600 3078
NFU Callfirst Helpline
0870 845 8458