Eggs Safer from Salmonella?

Background: Some of us may remember the "good old days" when it was safe to use raw eggs in mayonnaise, eggnog, meringues and other dishes. Then, as chicken raising and egg production in the U.S. began to be done on an ever larger scale, contamination with salmonella bacteria became a major concern. We were warned that eating a Salmonella-contaminated egg that had not been adequately cooked could cause, at the least, a severe gastrointestinal illness and perhaps even death. This was not a trivial warning. It is estimated that there are 118,000 illnesses per year caused by the consumption of salmonella-contaminated eggs. It is a major health problem in the US.

Action: Most salmonella contamination of eggs occurs because the laying hen's reproductive tract has become contaminated with salmonella. The FDA has therefore proposed regulations to improve the sanitation on poultry farms as well as the storage of eggs in the hope of making the US egg supply safer. These regulations will be restricted to the approximately 4,000 egg producers with flocks of 3,000 or more laying hens.

Comment: The proposed FDA regulations seem quite reasonable but one can only wonder why it has taken so long to just draft these regulations for consideration. It is our impression that the European Union (EU) has taken much stronger measures to protect their poultry and egg industry which was already safer in the first place. In European stores, eggs are rarely kept under refrigeration. And all the eggs sent to EU markets must be stamped with the date that each egg was laid. This allows the consumer to immediately determine the freshness of the egg. In the US, the egg cartons are marked instead only with an "outdate" making it impossible to know the freshness of the egg and what might have happened to it in transit.

Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.
Frederick Hecht, M.D.
Medical Editors, MedicineNet.com