Eggs: trade regulations
Regulations for marketing and trading of eggs, registration, egg marking and inspections, salmonella and egg quality.
This guide is for businesses involved in the production and packing 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, sampling requirements under the Salmonella National Control Plan and egg quality standards.
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 and catering outlets within the EU must be marked with a code identifying the establishment, country of origin and method of production.
Registration of laying hen establishments
The Registration of Establishments (Laying Hens) Regulations 2003 require all laying hen establishments with 350 or more laying hens to be registered with the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). This includes caged, barn, free range or organic egg-producing hens.
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
If you sell eggs to shops or catering outlets, you must be approved and authorised as a packing centre by APHA so you can grade them as Class A eggs.
Registration is free. Your establishment will be allocated a number which is made up of:
- a digit (0, 1 , 2 or 3) 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
- Guidance on the legislation for the marketing of eggs
- Egg production site: registration
- Egg packing centre: registration
- Egg packing centre: application for designation
- Egg hatchery and chick breeding premises: registration
- Guidance on the regulations for the production and marketing of hatching eggs and poultry chicks
Great Britain Poultry Register
If you keep more than 50 poultry of any kind, and of any mix, these must be registered on the Great Britain Poultry Register.
Find out how to register your poultry.
All Class (Grade) A eggs sold at retail outlets and public markets within the EU must be stamped with a code which identifies 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, the producer cannot make any use of the quality or weight grading terms.
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.
Assurance schemes provide information 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 British Lion Mark indicates that eggs are produced to a 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.
The egg marketing inspectors (EMIs) are part of APHA and 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 work in 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 EMI, telephone or email your nearest APHA Field Services.
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 line 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 the British Egg Industry Council Lion Code.
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
You must dispose of any waste or surplus eggs in line with the Animal By-Products Regulations, which control any eggs that are not sent for processing within the food or non-food industries.
Every part of an egg is considered at least as Category 3 waste (low risk). In some cases the high risk Category 2 may apply to eggs from hens showing signs of transmissible disease which places further restrictions on disposal options.
Find out how to safely dispose of poultry waste
There are EU regulations to follow if you are exporting or importing eggs.
Eggs and egg products for import and export need to be classified with a commodity code.
Find out how to register as a trader to export agricultural products
Find out how to apply for a licence to export/import agricultural products
Find out how to apply for an export health certificate.
The European Community publishes a list of 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.