According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) rule on “Prevention of Salmonella Enteritidis in Shell Eggs during Production, Storage, and Transportation,” shell eggs intended for human consumption are required to be held or transported at or below 45°F (7.2°C) ambient temperature beginning 36 h after time of lay. Meanwhile, eggs in hatcheries are typically stored at a temperature of 65°F (18.3°C). Although most of those eggs are directed to incubators for hatching, excess eggs have the potential to be diverted for human consumption as egg products through the “breaker” market if these eggs are refrigerated in accordance with FDA’s requirement. Combining risk assessment models developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service for shell eggs and for egg products, we quantified and compared Salmonella Enteritidis levels in eggs held at 65°F versus 45°F, Salmonella Enteritidis levels in the resulting egg products, and the risk of human salmonellosis from consumption of those egg products. For eggs stored 5 days at 65°F (following 36 h at 75°F [23.9°C] in the layer house), the mean level of Salmonella Enteritidis contamination is 30-fold higher than for eggs stored at 45°F. These increased levels of contamination lead to a 47-fold increase in the risk of salmonellosis from consumption of egg products made from these eggs, with some variation in the public health risk on the basis of the egg product type (e.g., whole egg versus whole egg with added sugar). Assuming that 7% of the liquid egg product supply originates from eggs stored at 65°F versus 45°F, this study estimates an additional burden of 3,562 cases of salmonellosis per year in the United States. A nominal range uncertainty analysis suggests that the relative increase in the risk linked to the storage of eggs at higher temperature estimated in this study is robust to the uncertainty surrounding the model parameters. The diversion of eggs from broiler production to human consumption under the current storage practices of 65°F (versus 45°F) would present a substantive overall increase in the risk of salmonellosis.
- The level of Salmonella contamination is higher when eggs are stored at 65°F than when stored at 45°F.
- This increase in temperature translates to an increased level of contamination of liquid egg products.
- This increase leads to a substantive overall increase in the risk of salmonellosis.