SALMONELLA & EGGS
CAUSES, REGULATIONS, AND TAKING ACTION
W hat puts people at risk for salmonella in their eggs? Pooled eggs are raw, unpasteurized eggs that are combined in a container after being cracked and held for use at a later time. Pooled or combined eggs are at an increased risk of causing salmonella (S. Enteritidis) because in the pooled or combined state, the bacteria thrives and expands. WHAT ARE THE REGULATIONS? The model food code requires eggs to be used immediately and not left for any long period of time. This regulation is due to the fact that raw eggs and their shells can carry salmonella. If only one egg contains salmonella, the entire pool will be contaminated; the bacteria will grow and the risk of an outbreak presents itself. In 2004 a study* was conducted by staff of the Environmental Health Specialists Network (EHSNet). The network, created by the CDC, is comprised of environmental health specialists and epidemiologists at federal, state, and local levels who collaborate to evaluate food preparation practices and policies and their relation to foodborne illness. WHAT ARE THE FACTS AND WHY ARE THERE SO MANY OUTBREAKS?
They used a group of 153 restaurants in 13 different urban areas and found that only 26% stored their eggs at the appropriate temperature, and 54% pooled their eggs. The restaurants that pooled their eggs did so for between 4 and 6 hours. There have been several cases of salmonella that can be traced back to the improper handling of eggs in restaurants. Studies like this clearly indicate that these outbreaks are due to the improper handling of eggs. The high-risk practice of leaving pooled and combined eggs for an extended period of time before use, coupled with eggs being held above the appropriate temperature, have resulted in salmonella transmission and outbreaks across the country.
DO FOOD ESTABLISHMENTS TAKE THESE RISKS SERIOUSLY?
Food safety consultants frequently find pooled and combined eggs in food service establishments that get a wave of customers at breakfast. It’s easy to mistakenly leave pooled eggs unattended when there is a rush and there are too many things to pay attention to at once.
Interestingly, sanitarians often find that restaurant operators are aware of the fact that pooling eggs is not permitted, but they continue to allow it on a regular basis. Not only are pooled eggs
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