The California low-cholesterol egg, heralded as a technological breakthrough equal to the development of nonfat milk, may not be all it's cracked up to be.

Initial news reports said the egg produced by Rosemary Farms in Santa Maria, Calif., contained 125 mg. of cholesterol--more than a 50 percent reduction from current government figures for a large regular egg.But new evidence obtained by The Baltimore Sun indicates that the "breakthrough egg" may not have any less cholesterol than a 195 mg. low-cholesterol egg created in Pennsylvania and sold there, in Maryland, New Jersey and Ohio. The Pennsylvania egg, developed by Environmental Systems of Lancaster, has been on the market more than a year.

"I'm guided by the state of California," says Paul May of Rosemary Farms, which has been distributing the eggs from Sacramento to Orange County since Oct. 17. "This was all cleared by the state of California. I am not trying to upset anybody. They approved my egg. I have other numbers close to 125. I have been told there can be as much as a 30 percent variance, but all my numbers are considerably lower than 195."

Meanwhile, a spokesman from the U. S. Department of Agriculture says any low-cholesterol egg, including both the California and Pennsylvania eggs, may not be much lower in cholesterol than traditional eggs. The current standard of 250-274 mg. of cholesterol per large egg was published in 1976 in the USDA Handbook and is being re-evaluated; new tests show regular eggs now average about 210 mg.

Ardie Ferrill, program supervisor of egg inspection for the California Department of Food and Agriculture, was quoted two weeks ago as confirming the Rosemary Farms low cholesterol claim as "absolutely true." Now, he says the standard used to test the eggs "is being re-evaluated."

"We didn't realize there was a controversary," he says. "I understand the cholesterol can vary depending on the (research) technique used."

The department should have some answers in two weeks after evaluating testing methods and doing its own tests, says Jack Carmany, supervisor of the chemistry laboratory.

California used direct saponification, a controversial method in which the cholesterol is pulled out of the egg yolk first. The U. S. Food and Drug Administration recommends using a more time-consuming method approved by the Association of Official Analytical Chemists--lipids (fats) are pulled out first and then the cholesterol is removed.

Annie J. King of the Avian Sciences Department at the University of California at Davis, working with the state agency as a non-paid consultant, says her tests of a pooled egg sample showed the method used by California can yield from 34 to118 mg. of cholesterol less than the FDA-recommended method.

The controversy is heating up even more because John Albright, president of Environmental systems, says he has applied to sell his Pennsylvania eggs in California. His company,