In the last post (see Finding Egg Cartons), I identified that Ohio law requires that eggs be packaged in new (not used) egg cartons if they are going to be sold off-farm. I said this because when attending the class “Farmers Markets, Cottage Foods, & Food Processing Establishments ” last year, an ODA (Ohio Department of Agriculture) representative identified that re-using cartons was not allowed because of possible contamination from salmonella, etc. However, the idea that re-used cartons are not permitted in Ohio (for small farms with less than 500 layers) generated a lot of controversy – it seems that many small farms are doing this, and it was unclear where the Ohio code specified that egg cartons couldn’t be reused.
I researched the Ohio code, but couldn’t find anything that said they weren’t permitted; and a reader (thank you Carolyn) called the Medina county health department and was told that they were permitted. So, I called the ODA and asked too (questions like this can be directed to: ODA – Division of Food Safety, telephone 614-728-6250, website http://www.agri.ohio.gov, e-mail Foodsafety@agri.ohio.gov.
This ODA representative said that re-used egg cartons were permitted in Ohio (Yea!); but that anything identifying the earlier packager must be removed (or obliterated) from the cartons, and that they must be properly re-labeled in accordance with Ohio code. She confirmed that the name and address (including street address if you’re not in the phone book) of the farm, egg grade and size, packing date, and safe handling instructions must be on the label. Eggs that are ungraded and of mixed sizes may be sold, but the labeling must identify this.
I asked why an ODA representative would have previously identified that used cartons weren’t allowed; and she explained that interpretations within government organizations change over time. It can depend on who’s in charge at the time as to how things are interpreted. The good news for us is – we now have new cartons that will accommodate our hens Jumbo eggs – and we can reuse them! This will help keep down our costs and the price of eggs.
The ODA representative went on to say that if selling off the farm, you’re supposed to be inspected by ODA. Prior to inspection, you need to provide evidence that your water is negative for coliform (if you have well water) and they want to see and approve what you’re putting on the egg labels. In addition, during the inspection, evidence that you’re storing the eggs according to code needs to be provided (which she indicated meant buying a thermometer, putting it in the egg storage refrigerator, and making sure the eggs are being stored at the proper temperature). We’re now on the list for being inspected, and I need to get our water tested. That quote “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you………….” did cross my mind; but, we do want to comply with the rules.