In the guide

This guidance is for England

This guidance applies only to hens' eggs being sold to consumers by retail.

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

There are labelling requirements for eggs; those sold in boxes require a greater level of detail than those sold loose in trays.

Markings stamped on eggs

All eggs sold at retail level must be stamped with a code stating the farming method, the country of origin (UK), and the individual code for the production site.  

The farming method codes are as follows:

  • 0 - organic
  • 1 - free range
  • 2 - barn
  • 3 - caged hens

A typical egg may be stamped, for example, 3UK12345, which means:

  • 3 - caged hens
  • UK - country of origin
  • 12345 - production site code

A production site code can be obtained by registering with the Animal and Plant Health Agency egg marketing inspectors (APHA EMI).

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Labelling accompanying eggs at retail level

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

Packed eggs and loose eggs sold from trays must be accompanied by the following information:

  • quality grade (Grade A for retail)
  • weight grade
  • farming method with number code (see above). These markings may be added to the production site code. The information, including the production site code, can be explained on a separate notice for clarification
  • best-before date in the format 'Best before: day / month / year' (maximum 28 days from date of laying)
  • the storage instruction 'Keep refrigerated after purchase'
  • explanation of the code stamped on the eggs (as in the example above) 

Packed eggs must be labelled with the above and the following:

  • name of product ('eggs')
  • 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 centre. Unmarked boxes may be provided for customers' convenience for sales of loose eggs.

Packed eggs of different sizes (not including 'extra' sized eggs) must be labelled with the above and the following:

  • an indication of the sizes of eggs in the pack OR the 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
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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' - 73g upwards
  • 'L' or 'Large' - 63-73g
  • 'M' or 'Medium' - 53-63g
  • 'S' or 'Small' - below 53g
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Farming method

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.

All caged hens must be kept in 'enriched cages' and it is no longer permitted to keep hens in a 'conventional cage' system'. Please refer to the Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock: Laying Hens for more information.  

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.

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'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.

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Storage

  • eggs should be kept chilled to a temperature between 5°C and 17°C.  
  • eggs 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
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Extra / extra fresh

Packs may be labelled as 'extra' or 'extra fresh' until nine days after laying.  

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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.

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Eggs sold directly to consumers 

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'.

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Penalties

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

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Key legislation

EU Regulation (EC) No 589/2008 laying down detailed rules for implementing EU Regulation (EC) No 1234/2007 as regards marketing standards for eggs 

Eggs and Chicks (England) Regulations 2009

EU Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers

Food Information Regulations 2014 

 

Last reviewed / updated: April 2018

Please 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.

Feedback

Consumer enquiries from England, Scotland and Wales are handled by the Citizens Advice Consumer Service who can be contacted by telephone on 03454 04 05 06. Consumer enquiries in Northern Ireland are handled by ConsumerLine who can be contacted by telephone on 0300 1236262. Call charges may vary.

Business enquiries are dealt with by your local council. Use the Chartered Trading Standards Institute's postcode finder to locate your local trading standards team.