FDA Improves Egg Safety

US - The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced a regulation to help make eggs safer to eat.
calendar icon 8 July 2009
clock icon 3 minute read

The regulation will reduce the number of illnesses caused by eggs contaminated with the bacterium Salmonella enteritidis (SE).

The regulation, released to the public on 7 July 2009, requires the egg industry to take specific preventive measures to keep eggs safe during their production, storage and transport. Egg producers will also be required to register with FDA and to maintain a prevention plan and records to show they are following the regulation.

FDA took this action because SE is a major cause of foodborne illness in the United States. Eating raw or undercooked eggs is an important source of SE infections in people. FDA estimates that 142,000 illnesses each year are caused by consuming eggs contaminated with SE.

FDA first proposed the regulation on 22 September 2004. The agency has held three public meetings and opened two comment periods to ensure public participation in the rule-making process.

How Consumers Are Affected

The regulation means that eggs will be safer for people to eat.

The regulation will reduce the risk that eggs from an estimated 3,300 farms that produce most of the US egg supply will be contaminated with SE. As a result, an estimated 79,000 illnesses and 30 deaths will be avoided each year—that’s a reduction of nearly 60 percent in egg-related illnesses from SE.

In addition to the new safety measures being taken by industry, consumers can reduce their risk of foodborne illness by following a few simple steps:

  • Only buy eggs if they are sold from a refrigerator or refrigerated case.
  • Open the carton and make sure that the eggs are clean and the shells are not cracked.
  • Refrigerate the eggs promptly after purchase.
  • Cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook foods containing eggs thoroughly.

Some Producers Exempt

The regulation does not apply to producers with fewer than 3,000 laying hens. These producers account for less than 1 per cent of US eggs. The regulation also does not apply to producers who sell all of their eggs directly to consumers.

Producers who treat their eggs to destroy SE, such as by in-shell pasteurization, or who process their eggs into egg products, need to comply only with the parts of the regulation addressing refrigeration and registration. FDA requires all producers who must comply with the regulation to do so between 12 and 36 months after issuance of the regulation, depending on the size of the operation.

Further Reading

- Find out more information on Salmonella Enteritidis by clicking here.
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