Traceable chicken eggs ensure sanitation and safety
Categories of fresh egg products
There are several categories of fresh chicken eggs for human consumption sold on the market in Taiwan, based on the nature of the production and marketing supply chain for fresh eggs. These include ordinary fresh eggs (non-packed eggs, washed and graded eggs) and, based on the Agricultural Production and Certification Act, certified premium fresh eggs (Certified Agricultural Standards, or CAS, eggs) and Traceable Agricultural Products (TAP) eggs.
Packaging and labeling of each category of fresh chicken eggs
At present the production and marketing system for fresh chicken eggs in Taiwan is based mainly on non-packed eggs (loose eggs in plastic crates, also known as bulk eggs). Non-packed eggs are not washed and graded, but rather egg farmers place eggs collected from henhouses directly into plastic crates and turn these over to egg dealers (or transport firms) for direct sale to consumer outlets. Non-packed eggs are mainly sold to traditional dry goods shops, breakfast shops, the food and beverage industry, bakeries, and group meal providers, and account for over 50% of the egg market. Based on the provisions of the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation, when eggs are considered to be non-packed (bulk) foods, the places of display and sale of eggs for food businesses that have company registration or business registration (such as convenience stores, stores, and supermarkets) must erect a sign indicating the food item and place (country) of production; there is no need for such a sign at other locations.
Eggs packed in plastic or cardboard and sold in convenience stores, supermarkets, and hypermarkets are all washed and graded eggs. Washed and graded eggs are mainly packaged in 10-egg boxes, although there are now smaller egg boxes (4-egg, 8-egg, etc.) for small families. The current labeling modalities for the source of washed and graded eggs sold on the market include: (1) only indicating the place of production; (2) indicating the name of the company; and (3) indicating the name of the company as well as the source livestock farm of the eggs.
Chicken egg producers or processors must apply to a certification body approved by the Council of Agriculture (COA) for CAS fresh egg or Traceable Agricultural Product (TAP) certification, and receive approval from that certification body, before they can put CAS or TAP labels on their packaging. Based on the standards for CAS certification of fresh eggs, CAS eggs must be washed and graded; the production environment, machinery and equipment, and egg quality must all conform to certification standards; and their packaging and labeling must be done on the basis of certification standards. Packaging for CAS eggs sold on the market includes 10-egg boxes and 240-egg cardboard crates (with eight trays of eggs per crate and 30 eggs per tray). In addition, sources of raw eggs used by CAS fresh egg businesses are divided into livestock farm producers who produce their own finished egg products and egg product processors who purchase eggs from outside sources (at present there are only two of the latter in Taiwan, Mr. Wu Egg and TNEGG). The labeling on the packaging of both CAS and TAP egg products must indicate the source livestock farm of the raw eggs.
The comprehensive promotion of traceability labeling for non-packed (bulk) fresh eggs since September 1, 2015
Considering that chicken eggs are an important product in the diets of Taiwanese consumers, the COA has aimed to upgrade egg quality and safeguard the health of citizens. In the past, there was no traceability labeling on the crates of non-packed eggs, so that each time a case was discovered of eggs sold on the market having drug or chemical residues in violation of standards, it was impossible to trace the source livestock farm of the eggs and enhance source management and guidance at the farm in question. Therefore, since September 1 of 2015 the COA has comprehensively promoted a system of traceability labeling for non-packed eggs, and each crate of non-packed eggs must have an egg traceability label attached by the layer hen farm. Only with such a label can the eggs be transferred to transport companies or egg dealers. Traceability labels must include the name of the eggs’ source farm, a QR code, the livestock farm’s individual traceability code, and the use-by date of the eggs. Consumers can swipe with their mobile phones to go to the Taiwan Egg Traceability System website (http://www.tafte-poultry.org.tw) to immediately access information about the eggs’ source farm. In addition, the COA assigns personnel to visit layer hen farms and consumer sales endpoints to undertake sample testing of egg quality. These measures enable consumers to eat domestically produced eggs with confidence and peace of mind.
In addition, to advance egg traceability label management, since September 1 of 2019, the COA has launched a trial program of using ink-jet printing to print a traceability code and the date of washing and grading on washed and graded eggs, giving priority in this trial program to domestically produced washed and graded fresh eggs supplied to schools for nutritious lunches. During the trial period, the existing traceability labeling and new ink-jet printing systems will be used concurrently. This will make it easier to differentiate eggs and avoid confusion and deception, and facilitate the accomplishment of auditing and approval tasks for eggs purchased by schools for nutritious lunches.