Regulations for marketing and trading of eggs, registration, egg marking and inspections, salmonella and egg quality.

Introduction

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 Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).

You must also register with APHA 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 is free. Your establishment will be allocated 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.

Guidance and forms

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 further information, see the guidance on registering poultry.

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 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.

You can find information about the British Lion Mark on the British Egg Information Service website.

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 APHA, 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.

To contact your local Egg Marketing Inspector (EMI), please telephone or email your nearest APHA Field Services.

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 APHA 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.

International trade

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

Eggs and egg products for import and export need to be classified with a commodity code.

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.

Export licences

You may need an export licence to export eggs and egg products.

See the RPA guidance on registering as a trader to export agricultural products

See the RPA guidance on applying for a licence to export/import agricultural products

You may also need an export health certificate and should contact APHA’s Centre for International Trade.

The Eggs and Chicks Regulations allow exports under different labelling conditions to meet the demands of the destination country.

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.

Finding out more about eggs

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: