Food Law News - EU - 2000

Commission Press Release (IP/00/982), 7 September 2000

EGGS - Commission calls for clear labelling of eggs

The European Commission has adopted a proposal for the compulsory labelling of the farming method used to produce eggs. It would replace the existing voluntary scheme. The method by which hens are farmed has become a major factor in how people choose which eggs they buy. Clear and unambiguous labelling is therefore essential for consumers to make an informed choice. Commenting on today's proposal, EU Commissioner for Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development Franz Fischler said: "Consumers increasingly care about the way eggs are produced. This proposal underlines our determination to provide maximum information, giving consumers the right to choose. This compulsory labelling scheme will back up the animal welfare rules we agreed last year to protect laying hens". The obligation will apply to all eggs marketed in the EU including those from third countries. The proposal also includes provisions to simplify the marketing of eggs.

This proposal follows on from the new rules on the protection of laying hens agreed in July 1999(1). On the adoption of these rules, the Council requested the Commission to submit a proposal to adapt the existing marketing standards for eggs (laid down in Council Regulation (EEC) No 1907/90(2)), in particular studying the introduction of compulsory labelling.

The proposal consists of two major amendments to the current standards:

1. Introduction of compulsory labelling of the farming method used

The proposal foresees that the farming method will have to be indicated on "class A" eggs and on large and small packs of "class A" eggs via a distinguishing mark or a code designating the producer's distinguishing number. The exact form of the labels will be determined in the implementing rules following on from the Council decision. They could be similar to the existing voluntary indications which are:

The new compulsory labelling will apply to all eggs sold in the EU, including imported eggs. To avoid misleading indications, the distinguishing mark or code may be used for eggs produced in third countries, only if sufficient guarantees can be made as to the equivalence with EU rules and standards. If this is not possible, imported eggs shall be labelled as "farming method not specified" or with the country of origin.

2. Simplification of standards in the marketing of eggs

A new "class B" category of eggs intended for industry shall replace the existing "class B" (second quality or preserved eggs) and "class C" (downgraded eggs intended for industry) categories. As "class B" currently accounts for only a small proportion of eggs sold in the EU and the vast majority of the sector wishes to supply consumers solely with top-quality eggs, this amendment is key to simplifying the existing structure. "Class B" eggs, except for cracked eggs, shall bear a distinguishing mark showing their quality grading, as previously applied for "class B and C" eggs.

Background: Labelling requirements to date

To date, it has been mandatory to put the following indications on packs of eggs: the name of the trader, the number of the packing centre, quality and weight grading, number of eggs, date of minimum durability and appropriate storage, recommendations, particulars as to refrigeration/preservation in the case of grade B eggs (refrigerated or preserved eggs), packing date for eggs of other grades and for imported eggs

In addition, the following optional indications can continue to be put on packs: the selling price, the retail/stock control code, further dates (sell by date, laying date if the laying date is included on packs of "class A" eggs, it is mandatory to put this date on the egg as well), word "extra" (label removable seven days after packing), origin of eggs, particulars as to special storage conditions, statements designed to promote sales

Optional indication on eggs

In addition to the new compulsory labelling indications, further information may be included on "class A eggs", namely: best-before date, further dates, quality grading, weight grading, packing centre number, packing centre name, trade mark, origin of the eggs, code identifying the producer.

(1) EC Council Directive 1999/74/EC of 19 July 1999 laying down minimum standards for the protection of laying hens; OJ L 203 , 03/08/1999 p. 53 - 57

(2) Council Regulation (EEC) No 1907/90 of 26 June 1990 on certain marketing standards for eggs; OJ L 173 , 06/07/1990 p. 5 - 11. Last amended by Regulation (EC) No 818/96 (OJ L 111, 04/05/1996, p.1).

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