April 21, 2024

USDA Develops Technology to Reduce Pathogens in Shell Eggs

The USDA has developed technology to reduce pathogens in shell eggs. Raw eggs and egg products can carry Salmonella bacteria and cause illness and outbreaks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the pathogen causes about 1.35 million illnesses, 26,500 hospitalizations, and 420 deaths every year in this country.

USDA Develops Technology to Reduce Pathogens in Shell Eggs

Pasteurizing eggs does work, but less than 3% of commercial shell eggs are pasteurized in the United States. Conventional pasteurization is a long process. The eggs are submerged in hot water for more than 57 minutes to inactive Salmonella bacteria. Researchers at the Agricultural Research Service’s Eastern Regional Research Center in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, used a novel thermal technology that has a much shorter processing time.

The technique uses Radio Frequency (R.F.) technology. The thermal technology makes the water molecules in the egg rotate and align with the R.F. instrument’s electric field. This friction makes the liquid in the egg heat up quickly and reduces Salmonella bacteria by 99.999% within 24 minutes. After this treatment, the eggs were refrigerated for seven days to simulate commercial cold chain temperatures.

USDA-ARS Research Food Technologist Daniela Bermudez-Aguirre said in a statement, “After treatment with the system, no intact Salmonella or sub-lethal Salmonella cell remnants were recovered, and no cell recovery was found in the R.F. – treated eggs when stored at retail refrigerated temperature. The egg quality, such as the color and other parameters, were also preserved through the processing.”

This technology to reduce pathogens in shell eggs has other advantages, all with no negative effect on quality. Americans consume about 93.1 billion eggs in 2023. This is a promising advancement for small farmers and can ensure food safety eggs while minimizing Salmonella.

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