ARCHIVE: Eggs and poultry: Egg marking (stamping)

Since 2004, Regulations (now the Single CMO) have required all Class A eggs (i.e. those sold through retail and to catering) to be marked with a code identifying the method of production, country of origin and the production establishment. The code will start with a number to distinguish production method, this should be ‘0’ = Organic, ‘1’ = Free Range, ‘2’ = Barn, ‘3’ = Eggs from Caged Hens. This will be followed by two letters (the ISO code) denoting country of origin (e.g. 'UK') followed by a code identifying the registered production site (numbers sometimes with letters). So for example a Free Range egg might be stamped: 1UK9999 (section 14 of the EMR1 leaflet below refers).

  • Guidance on legislation covering the marketing of eggs (EMR1) - Guidance on legislation covering the production, marking, transport, grading, packing and onward marketing of eggs.
Which producers do not have to mark their eggs?

Producers with fewer than 50 birds are not required to mark their eggs - so long as they provide other information such as their name and address and provide consumer advice to keep eggs chilled after purchase along with a best before date (maximum 28 days from lay) for the eggs at the point of sale. (section 4b of the EMR1 leaflet above refers). Individual markets may also have their own rules which require the stamping of a producer code on hen eggs. 

Ungraded eggs sold direct to the final consumer at the producer’s farm gate or sold by the producer locally door-to door in the region of production will not have to be marked.

Can I sell a small quantity of unmarked eggs through my local shop?

No. There is NO derogation (within the current EU Regulations) for producers to sell eggs outside the marketing regulations into/through third party outlets such as retail shops or caterers – all such sales must be from producers and packing centres which are registered with Animal Health EMI and must be Class A eggs in all respects.  

Can ungraded eggs be served in bed and breakfast establishments?

The Food Hygiene Regulations covering the sale of fresh shell eggs require that all eggs used by catering establishments should be properly boxed and labelled Class ‘A’, however there is an exemption for chicken keepers who run small bed and breakfast establishments on the same site as they keep their flock.

This exemption permits small bed and breakfast establishments (three rooms or fewer) who produce their own eggs to serve these ungraded and unmarked eggs direct to their guests.  To ensure that food safety is adequately safeguarded the bed and breakfast should inform individual customers that the eggs are direct from their own hens and are not Class ‘A’. Advice should be offered stating that, because the eggs are not Class ‘A’, the customer might like them properly cooked, particularly if they are in a vulnerable group.

It remains the case that if eggs are purchased from any other sources (including neighbours) then the eggs would have to be graded and stamped as Class ‘A’ before they can be used.

Best Before date

There is no legal requirement for the Best Before Date to be stamped on the egg. Some producers (packers) do stamp this information on their eggs. The legal requirement is for packs or labelling to show the Best Before Date - which may not exceed 28 days from date of lay. (section 17.2 of the EMR1 leaflet above refers).

Cost

There is a wide range of egg marking equipment at different prices. For very small producers, there is no need to invest in expensive printing equipment. Marking can be done with a hand stamp costing no more than £30. The only requirements are that the code is legible and the ink is food grade. (section 14 of the EMR1 leaflet above refers).

Registration requirements

Egg producers are required to register with the Animal Health Egg Marketing Inspector and be allocated a producer distinguishing number if:

  • they have 350 or more hens or
  • they have 50 or more hens and any of their eggs are marketed at local public markets or
  • any of the eggs are eventually marketed as Class A (all eggs to retail and catering). (section 3 of the EMR1 leaflet refers).

Establishments with fewer than 350 laying hens and those rearing breeding hens do not have to be registered, unless any of their eggs are destined to be graded for marketing as class A (i.e. all eggs sold at retail and to catering). However if the producer has more than 50 hens then they must also be registered with the Great Britain Poultry Register separately (section 4a of the EMR1 leaflet refers).

Producer code / distinguishing number?

The distinguishing number comprises a digit indicating the farming method, the code of the Member State and a unique identification number for the production establishment.

Are farm gate/door-to-door sales of eggs from unregistered producers permitted?

Yes - producers with fewer than 50 birds are not required to be registered with Animal Health EMI nor with the Great Britain Poultry Register and do not need to mark their eggs with a producer code. They can sell these at their farm gate or locally door-to-door in the region of production. They may also sell them direct to consumers at a local public market in which case they must show their name and address and provide consumer advice to keep eggs chilled after purchase along with a best before date (maximum 28 days from lay) for the eggs. (section 4b of the EMR1 leaflet refers).

The main benefits of a registration system are ensuring fair competition, traceability for food safety purposes and animal welfare and disease control. Information on the location of egg producers is subject to data protection laws.

There is no charge for registration and registration forms and further information can be obtained from the Animal Health Egg Marketing Inspectorate (EMI).

Egg Traceability

The majority of eggs sold in the UK can be traced to the farm of origin. If the eggs carry the British Lion Quality mark you can check online on the British Lion Mark website to learn more about the Lion Registered farm it was produced. Alternatively, you can contact the British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) directly at beic@britisheggindustrycouncil.com. Outside the Lion Code, this information remains subject to data protection laws.

If you have a specific enquiry or concern about the provenance of eggs you have purchased you can contact the Animal Health Egg Marketing Inspectorate.

Page last modified: 30 June 2010
Page published: 21 July 2009