Egg Safety and Quality Management Program
The Egg Safety and Quality Management (ESQM) Program within MPES is responsible for the regulatory authority for shell eggs and egg products produced, shipped, or sold in California, producing $24 million in annual revenue in 2013. The mission of the ESQM is to ensure that eggs sold in California are of known quality, origin, grade, and size. Pursuant to Food and Agricultural Code Section 27521, ESQM ensures eggs have been properly handled, labeled, transported, refrigerated; and are wholesome and safe to eat. Anyone engaged in the production, sale, or handling of shell eggs or egg products in California must register with ESQM. ESQM personnel inspect shell eggs and egg products at production, packing, distribution, and retail facilities (CCR § 1352a). ESQM also oversees the inspection activities of contracted county personnel, conducts shell egg surveillance under contract with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), conducts Egg Safety Rule inspections under contract with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), performs Compliance & Risk Based Inspections at production and wholesale facilities, performs Shell Egg Food Safety (SEFS) audits at layer facilities, and conducts outreach activities aimed at educating small-flock egg producers and others about egg quality and food safety.
Some of the Requirements for Egg Handlers Are:
Labeling: Consumer-grade packages or containers of eggs must state all of the following: name, address, zip code, quantity, the words “keep refrigerated,” and either the USDA plant of origin code number, the USDA Shell Egg Surveillance number, (if applicable) or California state handler code, sell-by date, *CA SEFS Compliant, *size, *grade, Julian date of pack (the consecutive day of the year that the eggs were packed, in Julian date format. Example – The Julian date for January 1 is 001, the Julian date for December 31 is 365).
*Must be printed in font ¼ inch or larger
- Quality: All shell eggs shall be graded and sized. The established grades of eggs are: AA, A, and B. The established sizes of eggs are: pee-wee, small, medium, large, extra large, and jumbo.
- Refrigeration: Shell eggs must be maintained at a temperature of 45° Fahrenheit or less.
- Defects: Shell eggs for human consumption must not exceed the tolerances for defects such as checks, leakers, dirty eggs, inedible or loss eggs.
Questions & Answers
- Q: Who needs to register as an egg handler?
- A: Anyone involved in producing, candling, grading, packing, or otherwise preparing eggs, or anyone selling or marketing eggs must register as an egg handler. This includes eggs from all species of fowl, whether in the shell or in liquid, frozen, dried, or any other form, when intended as food for human consumption. Each location where eggs are handled must be registered. This includes all egg handlers within California, and all egg handlers outside of California that do business within California. There are no exemptions to the registration requirement.
Q: How is the Program funded?
- A: The program is funded by assessments collected from registered egg handlers. The current assessment fee is 0.10 (ten cents) per 30-dozen case of eggs sold.
Q: Do out-of-state companies that ship eggs into California have to register with CDFA?
- A: Yes. Anyone who sells eggs by any means in California must register and pay the assessment fee.
Q: What happens to eggs that do not pass state inspection?
- A: Eggs that do not pass inspection are held OFF-SALE by the State or County Enforcement Officer, and they are not released for sale until they are brought into compliance by the responsible party and reinspected and released by an authorized state or county official. Eggs that cannot be brought into compliance are destroyed or sold to breaking plants under certain conditions. Breaking plants receive shell eggs for processing into liquid egg product.
Q: Where are eggs inspected?
- A: Eggs are inspected at production plants, wholesale warehouses, retail facilities and farmer’s markets.
Q: What factors determine the "grade" and size of an egg?
- A: The grade of a shell egg is determined by the size of the internal air-cell. As an egg ages, the liquid contents evaporate through its pores. The larger the air-cell is, the lower the grade of the egg. The outside appearance also factors into the grade of an egg. Eggs with moderate staining (but not adhering dirt) can be sold as grade "B." All other grades require a clean, unblemished shell appearance. Dirty eggs cannot be sold to consumers. The size of an egg is determined by its weight, in grams. A small egg must weight 40.16 grams or more, a jumbo egg must weigh 68.51 grams or more.
Q: Other than registering as an egg handler, is there anything else I need to do before I can legally sell eggs in California?
- A: In order to be compliant with the State of California, you only need the registration. However, your city may require a business license. Contact the city and county in which you will be selling and ask what they require.
Q: I have a retail store that sells eggs. Do I need to register as an egg handler?
- A: No, retail stores do not need to register, as long as they do not handle eggs in any capacity other than as a retailer. However, there are standards that retailers must meet, such as for refrigeration and signage.
Q: I have a small flock of chickens on my property. Do I need to register?
- A: Yes, you are considered an egg handler and therefore must register. However, if you have 500 hens or fewer and you sell all of your eggs on your premises, you are exempt from egg mill fees.
Q: My child is raising chickens and selling eggs as a hobby. Does she/he need to register?
Q: I donate my flock's eggs to a food bank. Do I need to register?
- A: Yes, both situations are considered egg handling. It is for consumer safety that we require the registration of all egg handlers.
- Q: I sell duck (quail, etc.) eggs but not chicken eggs. Do I need to register?
- A: Yes, handlers of eggs of all species of fowl must register as egg handlers.
Q: What requirements must I meet to sell duck (quail, etc.) eggs?
A: Size and grade standards are not currently in place for eggs from other species of fowl, like ducks or quail. Such eggs do not have the same labeling requirements as chicken eggs. Containers of eggs from other species of fowl offered for sale must be marked with "I.R.Q." standards.
- I = Identity = species (for example, duck eggs)
- R = Responsibility = who produced the eggs (farm name, address, and zip code)
- Q = Quantity = number of eggs in the container
- A: Size and grade standards are not currently in place for eggs from other species of fowl, like ducks or quail. Such eggs do not have the same labeling requirements as chicken eggs. Containers of eggs from other species of fowl offered for sale must be marked with "I.R.Q." standards.
Q: What happens if I am caught producing and selling as an unregistered egg handler?
- A: You can face fines of up to $1,000.00 for the first offense. You may also be cited for other code violations and charged additional fines.
Q: Who do I contact with questions about organic eggs?
- A: Please call the Organic Program at 916-900-5030.
Q: I want to sell eggs at Certified Farmer's Markets. How do I get started?
- A: For questions about Certified Farmer's Markets, please contact the Direct Marketing Program at 916-900-5030. You should also contact the agricultural commissioner for the county in which you will be selling.
Q: I think an unregistered person is selling eggs. How can I report this?
Q: I have a complaint about eggs I purchased. How can I report this?
- A: In either case, you can send an email to CDFA.ESQM_Inquiries@cdfa.ca.gov. You may also call 916-900-5062.
Q: I am just starting out as an egg producer. Where can I get some guidance on proper business practices, such as biosecurity, storage and refrigeration standards, labeling, grading, etc.?
- A: There are many resources available on our website. Please review the links, such as the Quick Reference Guide. ESQM holds Small Producer Workshops throughout the state, which are also listed on this webpage. You may also visit the UC Davis Cooperative Extension at https://ucanr.edu/sites/poultry/.
Q: I am no longer handling eggs. How do I cancel my registration?
- A: Please print the Egg Handlers Registration Renewal form, fill out sections 1 and 6, and mail it to CDFA, Egg Safety and Quality Management, 1220 N Street, Sacramento, CA 95814.
Contact us for more information:
Egg Safety and Quality Management Program
1220 N Street
Sacramento, California 95814
Telephone: (916) 900-5062
Fax: (916) 900-5359
Complaints and Inquiries:
Email to: CDFA.ESQM_Inquiries@cdfa.ca.gov