Complying with the egg production standard
While eggs are a nutritious food, they have the potential to be contaminated with bacteria such as Salmonella or chemicals that can cause food poisoning and illness. So, it's important that egg producers have effective hygiene measures in place. This includes:
- managing the hazards associated with egg production
- making sure that staff understand the importance of managing these hazards
- making sure that staff have the skills and knowledge that they need for their work.
All egg producers in Australia are required by law to:
- comply with the national egg and egg product processing standards
- make sure that the eggs and egg products they produce, or sell, are safe for human consumption.
Egg products include pulp, dried egg, liquid egg white and liquid egg yolk.
The national egg production and processing standard
The Primary Production and Processing Standard for Eggs and Egg Products (the Standard) is a set of legal requirements for egg producers to abide by to manage egg production and processing hazards. It is enforced by Victoria’s Food Act 1984 and was developed by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).
A hazard is anything that may cause harm to the consumer. Hazards can be:
- biological (for example, Salmonella) – biological hazards are the main hazards that can affect eggs. Salmonella bacteria can enter the egg through cracked shells or sometimes the natural pores in the shells
- chemical (for example, cleaning chemicals and baits) – chemical contamination can arise from the incorrect use of sanitisers during general cleaning and washing of eggs, or by storing chemicals incorrectly
- physical (for example, glass particles) – the protective eggshell makes this type of contamination unlikely, but there is a risk of foreign objects getting into the egg when the egg is cracked.
How Salmonella gets into eggs
Salmonella derived from contaminated feed, water or pests can infect a laying flock of birds, multiply in their gut and contaminate eggs without causing clinical symptoms in the birds.
Salmonella bacteria that live in dirt, feathers or bird droppings can enter the egg through cracks in the shell that are sometimes too fine to see. Once inside the egg, these bacteria quickly multiply to levels that can make people sick.
What's covered under the Standard
The Standard covers all egg producers, including:
- large-scale commercial producers
- 'backyard' home producers (with fewer than 50 birds)
- producers who sell at farm gate or markets.
The Standard covers eggs intended for sale for human consumption from most birds, including:
It doesn't cover eggs from ratites (emus and ostriches) or speciality egg products such as salted, century, balut and embryonic quail eggs.
Food safety management statement requirement
If you're an egg producer with 50 or more birds, you must have and follow a food safety management statement that is approved by Agriculture Victoria. This statement is your evidence that you have appropriate food safety systems in place.
Your food safety management statement can be:
- an approved industry or commercial quality assurance (QA) program
- a generic food safety management statement.
The statement can be in whatever format suits you as long as it's readily available to an authorised officer on request.
If you're a home producer with fewer than 50 birds, you're not required to have and follow a food safety management statement, but you must meet the other requirements of the Standard.
Input requirements (hens, feed, water, litter and chemicals)
The Standard requires that egg producers must take all reasonable measures to ensure feed, water, litter and chemicals don't make the eggs unsafe or unsuitable for consumption.
Hens should be purchased from a reputable supplier and producers should ask for health and vaccination certificates upon purchase.
Feed, water and litter
To avoid contamination by feed, water and litter:
- purchase feed and litter from a reputable supplier
- have a cleaning and maintenance schedule for feed storage silos and feed delivery systems (including conveyors, hoppers, and chain feeders)
- ensure rodents, insects and wild birds do not have access to feed
- ensure provision of a clean, fresh water supply (town-water or treated surface water)
- change nesting material frequently
- remove and dispose of broken eggs.
Chemicals that can contaminate eggs include:
- wash down sprays
- egg washing compounds
- rodent bait
To avoid chemical contamination:
- one or more on site staff members should be trained in farm chemical handling
- use appropriate cleaning and sanitising products, in line with the manufacturer's directions and material safety data sheets
- store and use chemicals in line with instructions on the label and material safety data sheets
- get source veterinary medicines only from a veterinary practitioner (vet) or veterinary supply shop
- use veterinary medicines according to the label instructions or as advised by your vet
- comply with any withholding periods (or other restrictions) for eggs from treated stock.
Waste disposal requirements
The Standard requires egg producers to store, handle or dispose of waste in a manner that will not make the egg unsafe or unsuitable for consumption. Waste includes:
- used litter
- dead birds
- rejected or unsafe eggs.
To avoid contamination by waste material:
- Collect and dispose of dead birds promptly and in a way that they won't contaminate eggs. For example, place in waterproof, leak-proof containers before incineration, composting or burial away from the poultry shed.
- Remove litter and/or poultry manure off site, or spread on surrounding land, or store on site with an effective buffer distance to the poultry shed.
- Compost manure before spreading. This will kill most pathogens and further reduce the risk of disease outbreak.
- Dispose of rejected eggs in a safe manner, for example bury or compost eggs.
- Make sure waste is disposed of according to Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) or local council requirements.
- *Wash hands after handling waste, and when possible, change clothing and footwear.
Bird health requirements
The Standard states that 'an egg producer must not obtain eggs for human consumption from birds if the proprietor, supervisor or employee of the egg producer knows, ought to reasonably know or to reasonably suspect, the bird is affected by disease or a condition that makes the eggs unsafe or unsuitable'.
The following tips can help you to manage the general health of your birds:
- regularly monitor birds for signs of illness
- seek veterinary care promptly if you suspect illness in your birds
- humanely cull sick or injured birds promptly
- discard eggs if birds appear sick
- discard eggs from birds treated with antibiotics, in line with the withholding period instructions
- if you have more than one shed of birds, perform activities in sheds containing youngest to oldest birds, or healthy to sick birds, to minimise disease risks.
When receiving or purchasing new birds:
- get written assurance from the breeder or hatchery on the health and vaccination status of the birds
- quarantine the new birds away from existing stock for a minimum period of two weeks and observe these birds for signs of illness.
It can be difficult to know whether a bird is sick with a condition that will affect the safety of eggs, so always manage your flock for good general health. Seek veterinary advice if in doubt.
Maintenance and cleaning requirements for sheds and equipment
The Standard states that an egg producer must:
- ensure premises, equipment and transportation vehicles are designed and constructed in a way that minimises the contamination of eggs, allows for effective cleaning and sanitisation, and minimises the harbourage of pests and vermin
- keep premises, equipment and transportation vehicles effectively cleaned, sanitised and in good repair to ensure the eggs are not made unsafe or unsuitable.
Sheds and equipment, if not cleaned properly, can add to the bacterial load and increase the risk of eggs becoming contaminated. To maintain clean and hygienic premises:
- thoroughly clean and disinfect shed and equipment at batch depletion, including internal surfaces of sheds and brooding areas (sheds)
- prevent wild birds, rodents, and pets from entering the shed, areas where hens and pullets range and where eggs are processed or stored
- control pests and their breeding areas, including removing breeding grounds for flies and baiting for rodents.
Human health and hygiene requirements
The Standard states that:
- a person involved in egg production must exercise personal hygiene and health practices that do not make the eggs unsafe or unsuitable
- an egg producer must take all reasonable measures to ensure personnel and visitors exercise personal hygiene and health practices that do not make the eggs unsafe or unsuitable.
Disease-causing bacteria can be spread by poor hygiene practices, such as inadequate hand washing before handling eggs or when moving between different areas of the facility. To reduce the risk of contamination by human hygiene:
- provide adequate hand washing facilities with hot and cold running water, soap and facilities for drying hands (such as disposable paper towels). Hand disinfecting gel or cream is also acceptable
- make sure that all staff understand and carry out good personal hygiene practices to prevent the spread of disease
- make sure that visitors understand and carry out good hygiene practices
- make sure that people who are unwell do not handle eggs
- make sure that staff members or visitors who returned from oversea don’t enter the farm for two weeks.
Skills and knowledge requirements
The Standard requires egg producers to make sure that a person who engages in or supervises the primary production of eggs has:
- skills and knowledge in food safety and food hygiene
- knowledge of food safety and food hygiene matters (appropriate to their work).
To do this:
- train staff to recognise and prevent food safety hazards in egg production, either through on-the-job activities or through formal training systems
- keep your training records current.
Staff must receive training suitable to the activities they perform. For example, staff who grade and clean eggs need to understand how to do this so that the eggs are safe to eat, and supervisors must have a broader knowledge about the operations for which they're responsible.
Requirements for collection, checking and packing of eggs
The Standard prohibits the sale of:
- cracked (including broken) or dirty eggs
- egg products which have not been processed according to the Standard
- egg products which contain a pathogenic micro-organism (regardless of whether it has been processed appropriately)
- unprocessed egg pulp, unless it is being supplied to an authorised egg processor for further processing.
Eggs can become contaminated with bacteria at any stage after lay, especially if they are cracked or dirty. You can control this hazard by:
- collecting and checking eggs regularly
- handling eggs correctly and thoroughly checking them for faults.
You can do the following to ensure the safe collection of eggs:
- collect eggs at least once a day, more often in hot weather
- on collection, sort eggs into clean first grade or dirty eggs
- separate dirty eggs into another container for cleaning or disposal
- place dirty eggs through a suitable cleaning process
- discard heavily soiled and broken ('leaker') eggs.
Egg cleaning and washing
If not done properly, egg cleaning can introduce bacteria into the egg and increase the risk of contamination.
Eggs can be cleaned by either dry cleaning or washing methods, but it's best to use the dry clean method for eggs with minor marks.
Keep in mind that wiping eggs does greater damage to the egg than leaving it with a slight amount of soil and greatly increases the chance of the egg becoming contaminated.
To dry clean eggs:
- clean lightly soiled eggs with a clean, dry, sanitised cloth
- sanitise or dispose of cleaning cloths when soiled (minimum once a day).
To wet wash eggs:
- avoid cleaning soiled eggs with a damp cloth, as this can remove the cuticle that prevents bacteria from entering the pores in eggshells.
- avoid wiping multiple eggs with the same cloth as this can spread bacteria from one egg to other eggs
- wash eggs immediately after collection — the soil on the egg becomes harder to remove the longer the eggs are in storage
- check that the eggs are at room temperature before washing — a large temperature difference between the egg and the wash water can cause the egg to crack
- ensure that the temperature of wash water is in the range of 40 to 45°C
- only buy cleaning and sanitising products for wash water from reputable suppliers
- ensure the correct concentration of sanitising solution as recommended by the manufacturer and replace the washing solution regularly and when the content of a broken egg/s contaminate the washing solution.
- don't use bubbler immersion egg washers. Lack of proper temperature control, inaccurate immersion times and risk of contamination from food poisoning bacteria, fungi and mould from one basket of eggs to the other is too great a risk.
Visual checking and grading
Following sorting and washing, candle eggs and visually check to make sure there are no cracks or other faults (for example, thin shells).
Rejected eggs should be either:
- disposed of through an appropriate waste disposal mechanism, for example burying or composting, or
- sent to a processor for further processing by a suitable technique that will kill bacteria, for example eggs may be pulped and then pasteurised or dried.
Thoroughly clean the grading machine after use.
Take care when packing eggs to prevent contamination and damage to eggs. It’s recommended to:
- keep egg-packing facilities, packing units and equipment in a hygienic condition and clean regularly
- make sure the eggs are dry prior to packing
- pack eggs in new, clean cartons or trays.
Storage and temperature control
Storage and temperature controls are not specific requirements of the Standard, but incorrect storage of eggs can allow contamination and growth of any surviving bacteria.
To properly store your eggs so they're safe for human consumption:
- store and transport eggs in a system that avoids excessive temperature fluctuations until they reach the consumer
- keep eggs below 20°C
- monitor the temperature of cool rooms and vehicles regularly
- refrigerate or freeze egg pulp prior to supply to an egg processor
- deliver eggs to the customer in a suitable vehicle at a temperature of less than 20°C.
- store eggs in a well cleaned and sanitised store room.
The Standard includes requirements for making sure that eggs or egg products sold for human consumption can be traced. This allows eggs or egg products sold or supplied to be:
- quickly accounted for in the event of a food safety incident
- recalled (if necessary).
Get a Property Identification Code (PIC)
If you have 50 birds or more kept for egg production, under the Livestock Disease Control Act 1994 you must get a Property Identification Code (PIC) and notify us of your business details.
If you have fewer than 50 birds, you don't need to notify us.
- name, address and phone number of business
- email address if applicable
- type of laying bird (chicken, quail, duck, other)
- details of the property
- PIC if you already have one for livestock other than poultry.
Stamp eggs with your PIC
An egg producer with 50 birds or more must mark individual chicken eggs with a unique identification code.
If you're supplying egg pulp, you must mark each package or container of pulp with your identification (unless you're sending on for further processing such as pasteurising/drying).
In Victoria, we use the PIC register to provide producers with their egg stamp code.
You don't need to stamp eggs from birds other than chickens.
Egg producers should be able to identify the date all eggs on the farm were laid and preferably should be able to trace eggs back to the flock/shed from which they were produced. This should be able to be correlated with the source of feed and hatchery data to assist in trace back if any problems occurs.
To make sure all eggs and egg products are traceable:
- have a system in place to identify where the eggs or egg pulp came from if handling products from other producers or other sites within your business
- keep sale records, including invoices or delivery dockets that contain lot identification, date markers or other relevant information
- keep records for the sale or receipt of cracked eggs and unpasteurised pulp.
Your records can be in whatever format suits you as long as:
- they contain all the required information
- are clear and accurate
- are readily available to an authorised officer on request.
Download our Record keeping templates (WORD - 216.8 KB)
You must label your cartons and trays with the following information:
- name and address of producer or packing shed
- best before date (recommended 35 days from date of packing)
- identification, such as lot identification or batch number
- a nutritional information panel.
If cartons are halved so they can be sold in half-dozens, each half must be labelled.
Sale or supply requirements
An egg producer must not sell or supply eggs or egg pulp for human consumption if it knows, ought to reasonably know or reasonably suspect that the eggs are 'unacceptable'.
Unacceptable eggs include:
- cracked or broken eggs
- dirty eggs
- unprocessed egg pulp.
Cracked or dirty eggs must not be sold for human consumption unless you're selling on to a processor for pasteurisation or an equivalent process. For example, they cannot be sold for wholesaling, catering purposes or retail.
Unpasteurised egg pulp
If you supply unpasteurised egg pulp to a processor for pasteurisation or an equivalent process such as high-pressure processing, the pulp must be labelled with a statement that it's unpasteurised.