Temporary measure comes as egg prices hit record highs.

By Tim Nelson
Updated April 20, 2020
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Maybe it’s because we’re stuck at home with more time to eat a complete breakfast. Maybe it’s because everyone is baking something with them. Whatever the reason, eggs have been flying off the shelves since we began sheltering in place. That’s led to such an extreme spike in prices that some people felt they’d be better off raising their own hens.

In an effort to help keep shelves stocked, the Food and Drug Administration is temporarily rolling back some of its labelling policies in the hopes that eggs can get to retailers faster. According to a policy document, the FDA will “provide temporary flexibility regarding certain packaging and labelling requirements for shell eggs sold in retail food establishments so that industry can meet the increased demand for shell eggs during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Normally, cartons of eggs must be labelled with information like where they’re from, who manufactured/packed/distributed them, and nutrition facts. The only issue is that the packaging process can hold up how long it takes an egg to get to where it’s sold. At a time like this, those labelling facilities might be understaffed or closed down as well.

So in the hopes of potentially avoiding a situation similar to the current milk dumping problem, the FDA is effectively cutting out a step in the supply chain. Retailers who get bulk egg deliveries can just place them in unlabelled cartons, which will hopefully avoid shortages and alleviate demand so that prices can get back to normal.

In case you were worried that this means grocery stores will start selling mystery eggs, the FDA’s temporary policy still requires retailers to clearly display information about the eggs’ “statement of identity,” info about manufacturer, packer, and distributor, and safe handling instructions. So you’ll still see at least some of the usual information you would when handling a carton of a dozen eggs, just not on the individual package itself.

Under normal circumstances, we’d obviously like to know more about our eggs (and the guidelines don’t mention anything about cage free or free range designations). But in these strange times, unlabelled eggs are a lot better than no eggs at all.