July 7, 2009
The Food and Drug Administration today announced finalization of its new rule for the egg industry requiring specific preventive measures against Salmonella Enteritidis contamination during production of shell eggs in poultry houses, and refrigeration of the eggs during subsequent storage and transportation. FDA estimates that the regulation will prevent approximately 79,000 illnesses and 30 deaths each year caused by consumption of eggs contaminated with the bacterium Salmonella Enteritidis.
Egg-associated illness caused by Salmonella is a serious public health problem. Infected individuals may suffer mild to severe gastrointestinal illness, short term or chronic arthritis, or even death. Implementing the preventive measures would reduce the number of Salmonella Enteritidis infections from eggs by nearly 60 percent.
The rule requires adoption of preventive measures by virtually all egg producers with 3,000 or more laying hens whose shell eggs are not processed with a treatment, such as pasteurization, to ensure their safety. Producers with at least 3,000 but fewer than 50,000 laying hens must comply within 36 months after the rule's publication. Producers with 50,000 or more laying hens must be in compliance with the rule within 12 months after its publication in the Federal Register.
The new rule is part of a coordinated strategy between the FDA and the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to help ensure egg safety.
Under the rule, egg producers must:
- Buy chicks and young hens only from suppliers who monitor for Salmonella bacteria
- Establish rodent, pest control, and biosecurity measures to prevent spread of bacteria throughout the farm by people and equipment
- Conduct testing in the poultry house for Salmonella Enteritidis. If the tests find the bacterium, a representative sample of the eggs must be tested over an 8 week time period (4 tests at 2 week intervals); If any of the four egg tests is positive, the producer must further process the eggs to destroy the bacteria, or divert the eggs to a non-food use
- Clean and disinfect poultry houses that have tested positive for Salmonella Enteritidis
- Refrigerate eggs at 45 degrees Fahrenheit temperature during storage and transportation no later than 36 hours after the eggs are laid.
Egg producers whose eggs receive treatments such as pasteurization still must comply with the refrigeration requirements. Similarly, certain persons-such as distributors, packers, or truckers holding or transporting shell eggs also must comply with the refrigeration requirements.
For more information, see Egg Safety Final Rule.