Food standards

The advice sheets below have the latest information on food standards. If you need more advice call 01753 475111 (Enforcement & Regulatory option).

Retail sale and labelling of eggs

In the guide

This guidance is for England

All eggs sold by retailers must be stamped with a specific code.

Loose eggs must be accompanied with details of the packing station number, quality grade, weight grade, type of farming method, best-before date, storage conditions, and explanation of the code stamped on the egg.

Packed eggs in small boxes should show the same information as well as the name and address of the packer and the number of eggs in the pack.

There are specific requirements for the labelling of free-range eggs and barn eggs, storage conditions, and weight grades of eggs.

Markings stamped on eggs

All eggs sold at retail level must be stamped with a code describing the type of farming method used, the country of origin, and the production site's individual code.

For example, 3UK12345 would relate to the information required as follows:

  • 3 - the method of farming:
    - 0 (organic)
    - 1 (free range)
    - 2 (barn)
    - 3 (caged hens)
  • UK - the country of origin
  • 12345 - the production site code, provided to the packer on registration with the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA)

Labelling accompanying eggs at retail level

There are some differences between the labelling required for packed and loose eggs sold at retail.

Graded packed AND loose eggs sold from trays must be accompanied by the following information:

  • quality grade (Grade A for retail)
  • weight grade
  • type of farming method with number code (see above). These markings may be added to the producer's number or code. The information, including the producer's distinguishing code, can be explained on a separate notice for clarification
  • best before / BB (maximum 28 days from date of laying)
  • appropriate directions for storage, such as 'keep refrigerated after purchase'
  • explanation of the code stamped on the eggs (see above) 

Packed eggs sold at retail must additionally show:

  • name of product, 'eggs', and number of eggs unless this can be easily determined from outside the package
  • name and address of packer or seller
  • packing centre code

Eggs can only be packed into boxes by a registered packing station. Unmarked boxes may be provided for customers' convenience for sales of loose eggs.

Mixed prepacked eggs (not including 'extra' sized eggs), where packs contain eggs of different sizes, should additionally show:

  • an indication as to the various sizes contained therein OR a declaration 'eggs of different sizes'
  • minimum net weight of the eggs in that pack

For all types of packed eggs, the pack may also be labelled with the following information:

  • the selling price
  • the packing and/or laying date
  • a trader name, advertising or statements designed to improve egg sales (providing the information is not misleading)
  • information as to the origin of the eggs
  • information as to how the hens were fed

'Best before' & 'sell by' dates

Eggs, whether loose or packed, must be marked with a best-before date. They must also be sold within 21 days of laying.

There is no legal requirement to have a sell-by date on eggs but it may help you to ensure eggs are sold within the 21 days. Where no sell-by date is shown, you should remove eggs from sale seven days before their best-before date.

Method of farming

The method of farming relating to the stamped code can be indicated using the wording below, where applicable. These descriptions also apply if you wish to voluntarily describe your eggs when selling from your premises or door-to-door:

  • free-range eggs
  • barn eggs
  • eggs from caged birds

If the eggs have not been produced in accordance with the methods set out for free-range eggs or barn eggs, then they are automatically classed as eggs from caged hens.

Laying hens may not be kept in cages that only meet the requirements of the 'conventional cage' system. More information about this is contained within the Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock: Laying Hens, which is available on the GOV.UK website.

Free range

Eggs described as 'free range' must be produced in poultry establishments in which the hens have:

  • continuous daytime access to open-air runs
  • access to ground mainly covered with vegetation
  • at least four square metres of ground available per bird

In addition, there are requirements in relation to the hens' housing and fittings.

Barn

Barn eggs must be produced in a poultry establishment where the hens:

  • are provided with at least 15cm perch space per hen
  • have floor space providing at least one square metre for every nine chickens
  • comply with requirements relating to the hens' housing and fittings

If you need further advice about the other descriptions of methods of farming, or the hens housing requirements, please contact APHA on 03000 200 301.

Storage

  • eggs should be kept chilled, and protected from changes to, and extremes of, temperature; between 5°C and 17°C is suitable
  • they should be kept out of direct sunlight and away from other goods that might flavour them, such as onions or washing powder
  • stock must be rotated to ensure that it remains within the stated weight and quality grade
  • visibly cracked eggs should not be sold

Weight grades of eggs

Only the following weight grades are permitted for eggs; no other terms may be used to describe the weights of eggs on retail sale:

  • XL or Very Large are eggs from 73g upwards
  • L or Large are eggs from 63-73g
  • M or Medium are eggs from 53-63g
  • S or Small are eggs below 53g

Egg inspections

This is carried out by APHA. Further information relating to the above legislation, and advice on registering as a packer etc, can be found on the GOV.UK website.

Eggs sold direct

For the sale of eggs by the producer directly to the consumer - for example, from the farm gate - please see 'Egg producers selling directly to consumers'.

Penalties

Failure to comply with these labelling requirements is a criminal offence. The maximum penalty is a fine.

Key legislation

Last reviewed / updated: December 2016

PixelPlease note

This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.

The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text.