New Egg Safety Laws Should Reduce Illnesses

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Eggs should be safer to eat now that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has initiated new food safety requirements for large-scale egg producers. The new egg safety laws will hopefully reduce the number of illnesses and deaths related to Salmonella poisoning that occur each year.

Food poisoning associated with Salmonella enteritidis, a condition known as salmonellosis, is a significant problem in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 40,000 cases of salmonellosis are reported each year. The actual number of infections may be thirty or more times greater, however, because many milder cases are not diagnosed or reported.

Among those most susceptible to salmonellosis are children younger than five, who are about five times more likely to be diagnosed than all other age groups. Young children, people who have a compromised immune system, and the elderly are the most likely to develop a severe infection. An estimated 400 people die each year with acute salmonellosis.

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With implementation of the new egg safety laws, the FDA says as many as 79,000 illnesses and 30 deaths related to contaminated egg consumption may be avoided. The new law affects egg producers who have 50,000 or more laying hens, which represents about 80 percent of egg production in the United States. The new laws went into effect on July 9, 2010. Smaller egg producers (less than 50,000 but at least 3,000 laying hens) have an additional two years to comply with the new rules.

Most people who become infected with Salmonella enteritidis develop fever, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. Symptoms can last up to one week, and most people recover without treatment. In highly susceptible individuals, however, severe diarrhea may require hospitalization. Salmonellosis can also lead to short- or long-term arthritis and even death if the infection spreads from the intestines to the blood stream.

According to the new egg safety laws, large-scale egg producers must refrigerate their eggs during storage and transportation if they are not processed within 36 hours of being laid. They must also buy their chicks and young hens from suppliers who monitor for Salmonella and test their poultry houses for the bacteria. Egg producers who have fewer than 3,000 laying hens are not bound by the new laws.

To ensure egg producers are complying with the new egg safety laws, they must keep a written S. enteritidis prevention plan, document their compliance, and register with the FDA. Despite initiation of these new egg safety rules, it is still up to consumers to do all they can to reduce their risk of infection and illness by keeping eggs refrigerated, not buying cracked eggs, and cooking eggs and foods that contain eggs thoroughly.

SOURCES:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Food and Drug Administration

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