Eggs, minimal changes to EU marketing standards

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Eggs_EU_mktg standards

The European Commission has updated the marketing standards relating to eggs with minimal changes with the three Delegated Regulations (EU) No 2023/2464, 2465, 2466. An in-depth analysis to follow.

1) EU Regulation 2023/2464. Egg stamping duty at the production site

Regulation  (EU) No 2023/2464. Duty to stamp eggs at the production site Regulation (EU) No 8/2024 introduces the duty to stamp eggs at the production site. As of 1308 November 2013, it will no longer be possible to stamp eggs at the first packing centre where the eggs are delivered (as already stipulated in EC Reg. XNUMX/XNUMX, Annex VII, part VI, point III), subject to national derogations based on ‘objective criteria’.

Target of the reform is to reduce the risks of food fraud and stamping errors also linked to possible confusion between eggs coming from different companies and production systems. Stamping at the place of production can therefore facilitate the correct traceability of eggs, which is also particularly useful for the management of possible incidents relating to food safety (EU Reg. 2023/2464, recital 3).

2) Regulation (EU) No 2023/2465. The words ‘equipped cages’, instead of ‘cage’, on the label

The subsequent Regulation (EU) No 2023/2465 – in force from 28 November 2023 – integrates the Common Markets Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013, as regards egg marketing standards, and repeals Regulation (EC) No 589/2008.

The labels of eggs from hens reared in cages must be marked ‘cage’ instead of ‘cage’. There are no other novelties with respect to:

– egg classification criteria (based on quality and weight)

– conservation and treatment of eggs, stamping requirements (except as introduced by EU Reg. 2023/2464. See above, paragraph 1) and packaging

– use of optional reserved terms,

tolerance levels accepted for the various quality and weight categories

– import and export conditions.

2.1) CATEGORY A EGGS. Quality characteristics

The quality characteristics of class A hen eggs remain as follows

– shell and cuticle, of normal shape, must be clean and intact

– the air chamber observed in the lower part of the egg must be immobile and have a height of no more than 6 mm. Not exceeding 4 mm in eggs marketed under the term ‘extra’ (1)

– the yolk must be visible when candling (which is done with the egg candor lamp in egg packing centres) only as a shadow, without apparent outline, slightly mobile in case of rotation of the egg, but with return to central position

– the egg white must be clear and translucent

– the germ (the pale spot characteristic of fertilized eggs, in the center of the yolk, with a diameter of 2-3 mm, from which the chick originates) must have an imperceptible development

– foreign bodies and atypical odors not permitted (EU Reg. 2023/2465, article 3).

2.2) Storage and treatment conditions

Storage and handling conditions for grade A eggs remain unchanged. They are not washed or cleaned either before or after grading in the egg packing centre, except in specific cases where certain centres may be authorised to wash eggs under specific conditions.

Refrigeration – understood as keeping at temperatures below +5 °C, during transport for a maximum duration of 24 hours, or in stores for up to 72 hours – is not permitted (EU Reg. 2023/2465, article 4).

2.3) Classification based on weight

The classification of category A eggs by weight also remains unchanged:

– XL, very large eggs, weight equal to or greater than 73 g

– L, large eggs, weighing 63 g or more and less than 73 g

– M, medium eggs, weighing 53 g or more and less than 63 g

– S, small eggs, weighing less than 53 g.

It’s possible to put grade A eggs of different sizes on sale. In this case, the label on the outer surface of the pack must be marked “eggs of different sizes” and the minimum net weight of the eggs must be indicated (Reg. EU 2023/2465, Art. 5).

2.4) Processing times

The time limits for the classification, stamping and packaging of category A eggs also remain unchanged. Within ten days from the date of laying the majority of category A eggs, within four days from the date of laying those sold as Extra Fresh (EU Reg. 2023/2465, article 6).

2.5) Mandatory information on transport packaging and documents at production sites

The information on the transport packaging must be affixed both to each transport packaging and to the transport documents at the production sites:

– name and address of the manufacturer
– manufacturer code
– number of eggs and/or relative weight
– date or period of deposition
– shipping date (EU Reg. 2023/2465, article 7).

2.6) Stamping of eggs for cross-border delivery

The stamping of eggs intended for cross-border delivery – i.e. from a production site to a collector, packing center or industry (food or non-food) located in another Member State – must be carried out:

– at the production site, reporting the manufacturer’s code, without prejudice

– derogations that may be granted by the Member State where the production site is located, in agreement with the Member State where the packing centre is located, at the request of both operators concerned (Reg. EU 2023/2465, Art. 8).

2.7) CATEGORY B EGGS. Indications

Category B of eggs remains subject to the same stamping requirements. These eggs must be marked with:

– a circular stamp with a diameter > 12 mm, inside which is inserted a letter ‘B’ of at least 5 mm height, or

– an easily visible colored dot, with a diameter of at least 5 mm (EU Reg. 2023/2465, article 9).

2.8) Stamping of eggs delivered directly to the food industry

Member States may exempt operators from the obligation to stamp eggs delivered directly to the food industry. Even when the receiving industry is located in a different Member State, whose authorities must of course be informed about the exemption (Reg. EU 2023/2465, Art. 10).

2.9) Stamping of category A and B egg packaging

The packaging which contain category A eggs must bear on the external surface, in easily visible and clearly legible characters, the following information (unchanged compared to EC Reg. 589/2008):

– code of the packing center where the eggs were packed and/or re-packed

– name of the category of quality eggs ‘A’, where appropriate ‘fresh’ or ‘extra fresh’

– weight category

– minimum storage term, set at 28 days from the date of deposition

– the words ‘washed eggs’ for eggs washed in accordance with Article 4

– recommendation to consumers to keep eggs refrigerated after purchase

– indication of the breeding method (‘free-range eggs’, ‘free-range eggs’, ‘equipped cages’ or with an organic method)

– explanation of the manufacturer code.

The packages Category B eggs must instead bear on the external surface, in easily visible and clearly legible characters:

– the packing center code
– the quality category ‘B’ or ‘category B’
– the packing date (EU Reg. 2023/2465, article 11).

2.10) Optional reserved mentions relating to quality

The words ‘extra’ or ‘extra fresh’ qualify as optional reserved terms relating to quality and can be added to the name of the ‘A’ category until the ninth day from the date of deposition (EU Reg. 2023/2465, article 12).

2.11) Optional indications relating to feed

Optional indications of feed given to laying hens are subject to minimum requirements. Cereals must be present at least 60% by weight in the feed formula, which may include a maximum of 15% of cereal by-products.

Where reference is made to a specific cereal, it must account for at least 30% of the feed formula used, and where more than one cereal is mentioned, each must account for no less than 5% of the feed formula. (Reg. EU 2023/2465, Art. 13).

2.12) Information to be provided in case of sale of loose eggs

The sale of loose eggs remains subject to the mandatory information already established, to be displayed near the place of sale of eggs:

– quality category (e.g. A)

– weight category (i.e. XL, L, M, S)

– indication of the breeding method (for example breeding on the ground, outdoors or in equipped cages)

– explanation of the meaning of the manufacturer code

– minimum storage term (set at 28 days from the date of deposition. EU Reg. 2023/2465, article 14).

2.13) The quality of the packaging

The quality of the packaging must be guaranteed in terms of impact resistance, dry condition, good maintenance and cleanliness and the use of materials suitable to protect the eggs from extraneous odours and risks of alteration in quality (Reg. EU 2023/2465, Art. 15).

2.14) Industrial egg packaging

A red band or label must be affixed to the packs of industrial eggs. The red bands or labels must bear the name and address of the receiving operator, the name and address of the operator who has dispatched the eggs, the indication ‘industrial eggs’ in capital letters, 2 cm high, followed by the words ‘unfit for human consumption‘ in characters at least 8 mm high. (EU Reg. 2023/2465, article 16)

2.15) Repackaging

Repackaging of packaged category A eggs is only permitted at a packing centre, exclusively for eggs belonging to the same batch.

2.16) Tolerances for quality, weight and stamping defects

The tolerance limits for quality, weight and marking defects remain unchanged compared to EC Reg. 589/2008 (EU Reg. 2023/2465, Articles 18,19,20, 2023, 2465). As well as the conditions for importing, exporting eggs to third countries, exceptions for the French overseas departments and certain regions of Finland (EU Reg. 22/24, Articles XNUMX-XNUMX).

The recommended sell-by date, originally laid down in EC Reg. 589/2008, was amended by EU Reg. 2022/2258, which extended the sell-by date from 21 to 28 days from the laying date of the eggs.

The minimum requirements of the production systems for the various methods of rearing laying hens (Annex II), equipped cages, on the ground and in the open air are also confirmed (EU Reg. 2023/2465, articles 17-20).

3) Regulation (EU) 2023/2466, marketing standards for eggs. Nothing new

Marketing standards applicable to eggs applicable to eggs of hens of the species gallus gallus, excluding hatching eggs, are now contained in Regulation (EU) No 2023/2466. The standard marketing, once again unchanged, concerns:

– identification of producers and packing centers (art. 3)

– stamping of the eggs with the manufacturer’s code, to be made with characters at least 2 mm high (art. 4)

– mandatory information to be included in the registers kept by producers (art. 5), by collectors (art.6), by packing centers (art. 7)

– term of conservation of the registers, for at least 12 months (art. 8)

– compliance checks (art. 9), decisions in case of non-compliance (art. 10), notifications of infringements (art. 11)

– communications by the Member States, at the request of the Commission, of information necessary for the application of the regulation.

Dario Dongo and Maria Ada Marzano

Footnotes

(1) Two thin membranes, between the shell and the egg white, prevent bacteria from entering the egg. The cooling that occurs in the egg after laying causes the innermost membrane to contract, forming an air chamber at its base. As the days pass, this air chamber becomes larger and larger

(2) Maria Ada Marzano, Dario Dongo. Fresh eggs, EU ‘sell-by date’ extended from 21 to 28 daysGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 15.1.23

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.

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Veterinary surgeon specialising in inspection of food of animal origin and PhD in animal nutrition and food safety.

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