Did You Know?: Indiana State Egg Board housed at Purdue

October 14, 2011

Andie Mears, field staff member of the Indiana State Egg Board, checks the temperature of the egg display in a local supermarket. Inset: Mears "candles" the eggs using an intense light to check the eggs for freshness. (Purdue photo/Mark Simons)

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Scrambled, fried, poached or sunny-side up. Not everyone agrees on how eggs are best prepared, but the inspectors for the Indiana State Egg Board know an inspected egg is the best kind.

Since its establishment in 1939, the Indiana State Egg Board (ISEB) has called Purdue home. Prior to 2005, Indiana did not have a state department of agriculture. This made Purdue the most likely location for state agencies regulating the agricultural industry. 

Although the ISEB is connected to the University through location, finances and administration, it remains a stand-alone state agency, with its own regulatory oversight of the sale and commerce of shell eggs In Indiana.

All registration and inspection of shell eggs in Indiana goes through the ISEB and its staff of five. Three field inspectors are responsible for individual territories throughout the state -- Indianapolis to Gary, all of Northeast Indiana and from Indianapolis to the south. Each year they conduct more than 4,000 egg inspections and renew 5,000 retail and wholesale registrations.

From gas stations and convenience stores to supermarkets and wholesale distribution centers, eggs are inspected for freshness, debris, cracks and leaks. Using an intense light, inspectors candle 100 eggs of each size from every distributer in a given store. At an average-size grocery, an inspector will handle 800 to 900 eggs. Inspectors test all egg cases and storage coolers for a temperature between 45 and 33 degrees.

"We check eggs and temperatures in both the display cases and the coolers," says Andie Mears, ISEB field inspector. "When consumers shop for eggs, they like to handle them, so if we look at the product before it hits the shelves, we are able to get a more accurate reading of the eggs. The storage cooler supply is truly representative of the quality of the product."

Egg inspections take anywhere from 15 minutes to six hours depending on the size of the store. All retail locations are inspected at least once each year, and larger groceries are inspected twice. Wholesalers are inspected more often since they supply eggs for the entire state.

Along with egg inspections, ISEB staff conduct USDA Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) inspections. During COOL inspections, which take about four hours, items such as fresh fruits and vegetables, raw nuts, seafood, pork, beef and poultry are checked for accuracy of and match between labeling on the items and on in-store signage, shipping containers and store purchasing records.

"This is a market-driven program," says Mark Straw, executive administrator for ISEB. "It's all about consumer knowledge. We make sure all products that should be labeled are labeled properly so buyers can be confident they know where their food is coming from."

Also, ISEB staff conduct inspections of farms for compliance with the FDA Salmonella Enteritidis Egg Rule; shell egg packers, hard cooking facilities and hatcheries for the USDA; and destination examinations of poultry products received through the USDA domestic food assistance programs.