Eggs are sexy. They can be safer to eat according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). What was announced on 7 July 2009 is the final rule requiring specific preventive measures against the bacterium Salmonella Enteritidis contamination during production of shell eggs in poultry houses, and refrigeration of the eggs during subsequent storage and transportation. FDA estimates that this new regulation will prevent about 79,000 illnesses and 30 deaths each year.
The rule requires adoption of preventive measures by 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.
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. Certain persons such as distributors, packers, or truckers holding or transporting shell eggs also must comply with the refrigeration requirements.