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Eggs, Fruit and Vegetables

This program protects the public by providing guidelines for the inspection of eggs, fruits and vegetables for compliance with state food safety regulations.  Staff also investigates consumer complaints; offers fruit and vegetable grading service for the food industry under a federal-state agreement; certifies fruits and vegetables for export; registers egg processors and packing facilities in the state; issues egg grader licenses for the PA Certified Egg Program and promotes proper care and handling of eggs, fruits and vegetables to ensure the highest quality food for the consumer.

The Federal-State Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Grading Services

To ensure that produce sold to the Pennsylvania consumer meets the same high standards, whether from a local farm or from another continent, the United States Department of Agriculture, or USDA, has developed official grade standards for fresh fruit, vegetables, tree nuts, peanuts and related commodities.  These standards describe the quality requirements for each grade of a commodity.  Grade standards are identified as U.S. Extra Fancy, U.S. Fancy, U.S. No. 1, U.S. No. 2 and U.S. No. 3.

Grading is divided into two main categories - the shipping point grading and terminal market grading. Most grading is conducted at the shipping point where the product is being packed for shipment to market.  Product may also be graded at its destination, or terminal market, to determine its current grade.

To provide grading services nationwide, the USDA maintains cooperative grading agreements with state departments of agriculture and other state agencies.  The grading service performed under these agreements is operated jointly by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service and cooperating state agencies, and is known as the Federal-State Grading Service.  Under these federal-state agreements, federally licensed graders perform work throughout the country at points of origin, and often, these shipping point graders work in the fields while a crop is being harvested.  Additionally, federal grading service is provided in 75 of the largest terminal markets in the country in conjunction with cooperating state agencies in certain markets.

All grading is voluntary except in those areas where producers have adopted federal or state marketing orders which establish minimum quality standards.

Terminal Market Inspection services are not available through the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. However, the Department continues to conduct shipping point grading services.  For more information visit the Shipping Point Services page.

Shippers, Receivers, Processors, Institutional and Government Agency Buyers

Shipments of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and related products can all be graded for quality and condition at the shipping point, in terminal markets throughout the country or upon receipt by institutional or government agency buyers.  Grading establishes the quality of the commodities at time of the grading service for sales purposes, to aid in determining shelf life, determining the best use of the product, establishing grower payments, or verifying compliance with contract terms or purchase specifications.

Continuous Inspection

A special type of service, known as continuous inspection, is available to packers at shipping points and in terminal markets.  Continuous inspection means one or more graders are assigned to a packing plant during full-time packing operations.  Graders monitor plant sanitation conditions, make frequent quality checks on the commodity from the packing lines and examine samples of the packed products to determine whether they meet the U.S. grade or specification for which the commodity is being packed.  The grader gives the packinghouse management oral and written reports on the quality and condition of the commodities being packed so management can take immediate steps to correct problems and protect the quality of the pack.  Continuous inspection service is offered only to packers whose packing plants and facilities meet rigid sanitary requirements and are suitable for proper handling and packing operation.  To receive this service, the plant and facilities must first be inspected by specially qualified USDA or federal-state graders to determine compliance.

GAP / GHP Audits

Microbial contamination can happen anywhere even in Pennsylvania.  Every grower, whether small or large, has a responsibility to minimize food safety risks on their farms and the food products they grow.  Growers should evaluate their farm practices, food handling practices, and train their workers in food safety.  Farmers can prevent on-farm contamination of fruits and vegetables by using Good Agricultural Practices and Good Handling Practices or GAP / GHP.  Good Agricultural and Handling Practices is a new way of thinking about food safety proactively, and not waiting for a bad situation to occur and then trying to fix the problem.  Proactive food safety is learning about the hazards than can occur with an agricultural product and then determining and taking preventative steps before your product leaves the farm and reaches the consumer.  The Fruit and Vegetable inspection staff in the Bureau of Food Safety, in association with the USDA offers voluntary GAP / GHP third-party audits to Pennsylvania farmers and producers.  Businesses and individuals may receive up to $400 per year to reimburse the costs associated with a successful initial PDA / USDA GAP audit.  For more information visit the GAP / GHP Program page.

Egg Inspections

Egg inspectors register and inspect egg processors and packing facilities in the commonwealth.  Most egg processors and packers voluntarily join the Pennsylvania Egg Quality Assurance Program, or PEQAP.  Egg inspectors also certify and issue egg grader licenses for the Pennsylvania Certified Egg Program.  Egg inspectors conduct random egg grading surveys in retail food stores to assure grade declarations on eggs by the processor and/or packer are accurate.

Small Flock Producers

Many individuals with small flocks of laying hens prefer to market their own eggs.  If an egg producer has less than 3,000 laying hens and sells eggs within five days from the date of lay and sells eggs predominately within a 100 mile radius of their production or processing facility, then the following summary of regulations will apply when selling eggs to the consumer.

EGGS From SMALL FLOCK producers.pdf

Weight Classes
Per Dozen
Per 30 Dozen
Individual Egg Min. Wt. on Egg Scale
Individual Egg Min. Wt. on Other Scales
30 oz
56 lb
29 oz
2.42 oz
Extra Large
27 oz
50.5 lb
26 oz
2.17 oz
24 oz
45 lb
23 oz
1.92 oz
21 oz
39.5 lb
20 oz
1.67 oz
18 oz
34 lb
17 oz
1.42 oz
15 oz
28 lb

There are three consumer grades of eggs: Grade AA, Grade A and Grade B. In order to mark your eggs with these terms, they must meet the requirements for the marked grade.