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IDOA egg program safety net for consumers, producers

Source of Article:  http://farmweek.ilfb.org/viewdocument.asp?did=12537&drvid=102&r=0.8765833

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


The head of the state’s egg inspection program periodically receives calls from restaurant owners, hospital officials, and others questioning the legitimacy of state egg inspectors.

“It always surprises me that I get calls, ‘Is this person for real? He’s checking our eggs.’ They don’t realize it’s (inspections) part of the food safety program to keep food products safe,” said Suzanne Moss, manager of the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) egg program.

Illinois Agriculture Director Tom Jennings recently highlighted the state’s egg inspection program during his report to the Illinois Agricultural Legislative Roundtable.

Officials with IDOA’s egg program work with sister federal and state agencies to ensure Illinois consumers buy safe, quality eggs and egg products, according to Moss. Those agencies include USDA, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and county health departments.

“We (agencies) act as an extra set of eyes and ears for each other,” Moss said of the close working relationship.

In Illinois, small-scale egg producers far outnumber large-scale operations. Eight egg producers are licensed to have more than 3,000 birds, while 101 are licensed to have 3,000 or fewer birds.

Many eggs sold and used in Illinois come from out-of-state operations. Forty-seven out-of-state producers with more than 3,000 birds are licensed to sell eggs in Illinois, compared to 10 out-of-state licensees with 3,000 or fewer birds.

Recently, the state has seen an increase in small-scale producers who sell specialty eggs, according to Moss. “A lot of people are looking for niche markets, especially with eggs,” she said.

Moss frequently receives calls from farmers seeking information about state requirements for egg operations. Those rules and regulations are posted online at {www.agr.state.il.us} under “food safety and inspection services.”

State egg inspectors check eggs and cartons at many locations ranging from warehouses to storage areas and retail display cases.

They also check egg cartons for correct labeling. The Illinois sell-by-date restriction of 30 days is more restrictive than the federal 45-day limit, Moss noted.

Inspectors also weigh eggs in the carton to ensure the quality and size of eggs are labeled accurately. Eggs also are checked for broken or cracked shells and candled for quality.

In addition to egg production questions, Moss also handles queries from consumers. The most common question is about the expiration date printed on cartons and if the eggs can still be used safely after that date.

“People think once the expiration date has passed, the eggs aren’t good. That’s not the case. You can use eggs within a week or two of that date — as long as they’ve been kept in the carton and inside the refrigerator and not in the (refrigerator) door (shelf),” Moss said.




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