Salmonella: Egg Safety

Last Editorial Review: 5/9/2005

FDA Proposes In-Lid Labeling for Eggs

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today proposed to amend its food labeling regulations to permit the egg industry to place the safe handling statement for shell eggs on the inside lid of egg cartons if the statement "Keep Refrigerated" appears on the top or side panel. This proposed rule applies to shell eggs that have not been treated to destroy Salmonella bacteria that can cause food-borne illness. If the rule is finalized, consumers may see the safe handling statement every time they open the egg carton. Currently, the safe handling statement must appear on either the top or any side panel of egg cartons.

FDA proposed to amend the egg labeling regulations after the egg industry asked FDA to allow safe handling statements to be placed on the inside lid of egg cartons. Although the placement of the safe handling statement on the inside lid of egg cartons is optional, the statement remains the same: "To prevent illness from bacteria: keep eggs refrigerated, cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook foods containing eggs thoroughly."

An estimated 118,000 illnesses per year are caused by consumption of eggs contaminated with Salmonella. Salmonella is a bacterium that can cause an intestinal infection if ingested. Persons with salmonellosis (the illness caused by the bacterium) may experience diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, headache, nausea, and vomiting. Children, the elderly and persons with weakened immune systems are most vulnerable.

This proposed rule amends the federal regulation first published in December 2000, which also requires retail establishments to refrigerate shell eggs promptly when they are received and to store the eggs at 45° F (7.2° C) or cooler.

Source: FDA Talk Paper T05-18, May 4, 2005

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