Most eggs are bought and sold as shell eggs -- that is, still in the shell. Shell eggs that are undesirable for human consumption are called restricted eggs. The U.S. Standards for shell eggs limit the number of restricted eggs that are permitted in consumer channels, and there are mandatory procedures for the disposition of restricted eggs. These procedures comprise the shell egg surveillance program that is monitored by the Grading Branch of Poultry Programs, AMS.
The Egg Products Inspection Act (EPIA), passed by Congress in 1970, sets forth requirements to ensure that eggs and egg products are wholesome, otherwise not adulterated, and properly labeled and packaged to protect the health and welfare of consumers of these products. The EPIA provides for inspections of shell egg handlers to control the disposition of certain types of loss and undergrade eggs. It also mandates that shell eggs sold to consumers contain no more restricted eggs than permitted in U.S. Consumer Grade B and that restricted eggs be disposed of properly.
Shell egg handlers include firms with over 3,000 layers that grade and pack their own eggs, firms that grade and pack eggs from production sources other than their own (grading station), and firms that are hatcheries. They are required to register with USDA by completing and submitting a Registration of Shell Egg Handlers Form, (PY-155) [PDF]
. At least 4 times each year, a State or Federal shell egg surveillance inspector visits each registered packing plant to verify that shell eggs packed for consumer use are in compliance, that restricted eggs are being disposed of properly, and that adequate records are being maintained. Hatcheries are visited at least once annually for the same purposes.
Restricted eggs are defined as eggs with cracks or checks in the shell, dirty eggs, incubator rejects, and inedible, leaker, or loss eggs. Cracked and dirty eggs may be shipped to an official egg products plant for processing and pasteurization. Otherwise, restricted eggs must be either destroyed or diverted for use as other than human food.
The EPIA also requires that eggs imported into the United States be inspected at the point of entry to determine that they meet the same restricted egg tolerances established for domestic producers. Those importing shell eggs can arrange for this inspection by completing and submitting an Import Request (Shell Eggs) (PY-222) [PDF]
. There is no charge to the importer for this inspection. Assistance in completing the form and in arranging for the inspection is available by phone at the number below.
For more information, contact:
Livestock, Poultry, and Seed Program, Poultry Grading Division
1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Stop 0258
Washington, D.C. 20250
Telephone: (202) 720-3271
Fax: (202) 690-3165
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