UEP responds to COVID-19 issues

April 9, 2020

UEP staff and consultants continue to work with members, regulatory officials and industry stakeholders to keep a safe and nutritious supply of eggs flowing to consumers. UEP appreciates FDA’s and USDA’s work and commends the personnel at these agencies for the time and effort they devoted to assuring consumers access to a safe, healthy, nutritious, affordable egg supply.

Actions taken during the past few weeks include:

Responding to the spike in retail demand, and the collapse in breaking egg demand, staff and consultants petitioned the FDA to establish a safe and verifiable way for breaking eggs to be diverted to retail channels. On April 6, FDA issued Temporary Policy Regarding Enforcement of 21 CFR Part 118 (the Egg Safety Rule) During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. See more about this guidance in "FDA issues guidance for labeling and further processors," in this newsletter.

UEP worked with the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) to facilitate the repositioning of eggs from food service, where they were not needed, to retail, where they were desperately needed. AMS temporarily modified its requirements to make this movement possible. See USDA Provides Flexibility to Shell Egg Industry to Shift Supply from Foodservice to Retail Outlets, published on March 26.

UEP petitioned the FDA for temporary flexibility for packaging and labeling of eggs for retail sale.  On April 3, FDA issued Temporary Policy Regarding Packaging and Labeling of Shell Eggs Sold by Retail Food Establishments During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. See more about this guidance in "FDA issues guidance for labeling and further processors," in this newsletter. Staff continues to work with state poultry executives and industry to clarify state regulations to permit eggs to be sold in bulk at retail in some states.

To ensure that eggs previously destined for foodservice and quick-serve restaurants do not go to waste, UEP petitioned AMS to purchase processed egg products for food banks and make advance purchases for use in schools when they re-open.

UEP helped producers and suppliers, including carton manufacturers, understand the Department of Homeland Security’s critical infrastructure plans, confirming that both eggs and the companies that supply them are essential businesses that must continue to operate.

UEP explained the FDA’s flexibility on Nutrition Facts labels to carton manufacturers to help them navigate the regulatory implications of temporary generic labels and cartons. See “FDA Provides Temporary Flexibility Regarding Nutrition Labeling of Certain Packaged Food in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

UEP is in continuous touch with regulatory agencies including USDA Agriculture Marketing Service and the Food Safety and Inspection Service to ensure that their inspections and other visits to our farms are safe, biosecure and carried out only when necessary.

UEP and other animal ag groups sent a letter to EPA, seeking to reduce the risk of exposing farm workers and staff to potential sources of coronavirus infections. EPA responded with a memorandum  saying, “states should take into account the safety and health of their inspectors and facility personnel and use discretion when making decisions to conduct routine inspections, notwithstanding any applicable compliance monitoring strategy.”

UEP established a frequently updated Resource page for members and industry personnel to access the most current information about COVID-19 and its impact on the egg industry.

UEP continues to educate customers on the safe food supply, echoing messages from the FDA and the CDC that the coronavirus is not transmitted through the food supply.

UEP staff and consultants continue to monitor the effect of COVID-19 on egg production. As the situation evolves, staff will alert members as information is available that could affect egg production