Saturday, October 5, 2013

Small flocks exempt from egg guidelines

Health Canada now says small flock owners who sell eggs direct from their farms will be exempt from its new guidelines that come into effect in December.

However, there remains a lot of room for confusion because the actual guidelines cover all table eggs which are defined in Section 2.11 as:

"A shell egg offered for sale to consumers (including retail environments, restaurants, bakeries, and other foodservice and institutional settings) for the purposes of consumption."

Glenn Black of Providence Bay, Manitoulin Island, wrote to Health Canada seeking clarification because he believes the guidelines could prevent small flock owners from selling any eggs because the guidelines require all "table eggs" to be graded in a premises that meets HACCP standards and the egg-marketing-board Start Clean, Stay Clean protocols.

Despite the definition cited above, Health Canada wrote Black that “eggs that are offered for sale at farm gates are excluded from the scope of the document.

“Please be advised that the guidance document does not recommend a ban on farm gate egg sales. 

“Therefore, the issues that you raised related to farm gate sales of eggs are not expected to occur."

On the other hand, Health Canada says that eggs from small flocks do pose a risk to public health.

It notes that there were two outbreaks of Salmonella enteriditis, one in 2010, the other in 2012, involved “table eggs originating from sources outside the regulated sector,” meaning from producers who are not marketing-board members.

In the letter to Black, Health Canada says “the weight of scientific evidence supports that any laying flock, regardless of size, may put consumers at risk by supplying eggs for the table market from a flock infected with S. Enteritidis, and that eggs that are not stored or handled in a way that minimizes the S. Enteritidis hazard, may put consumers at risk.”

So the question remains: will Health Canada exempt small flock owners from its guidelines, or will they be judged guilty of violating the guidelines if there’s an outbreak of S. enteriditis?