Today, the FDA’s final guidance on the egg rule to prevent Salmonella in eggs goes into effect. All shell egg producers with more than 3,000, but less than 50,000 laying hens must now comply with the rule. Farmers with more than 50,000 hens have been abiding by the rule since July 9, 2010. Final guidance was published in December 2011.
The rule, called Prevention of Salmonella enteritidis in Shell Eggs During Production, Storage, and Transportation requires egg producers to implement measures against Salmonella. Eggs must be refrigerated at 45 degrees F or less if they will be held for 36 hours or longer. The clock begins at the end of the day of lay. A biosecurity program must be in place, to limit visitors, protect against cross contamination, prevent animals from entering the poultry houses, and not letting employees keep birds at home.
If an egg test or environmental test is positive for S. enteritidis, the producer must remove visible manure, and dry clean and disinfect the poultry house. Flies and other pests must be monitored and controlled, by using mechanical traps and removing debris the vegetation around the poultry house. The laying hens must be tested for S. enteritidis. The hens are tested three times during their lives. Environmental sampling is also conducted regularly at the end of molting processes. Egg testing occurs if an environmental sample is positive.
An S. enteritidis prevention plan must be written and stored at each farm where eggs are produced for human consumption. FDA inspectors will conduct unannounced inspections at egg farms. The Reportable Food Registry will aid inspectors in reporting farms where there is “reasonable probability that an article of food or feed will cause serious adverse health consequences.”
In 2011, Salmonella was the largest hazard in the Reportable Food Registry, accounting for more than 38% of reported hazards. And a study published in May 2012 found that Salmonella infections have increased by 44% in the United States since the late 1990s. Chicken and eggs are the major sources of infection.