FDA Finalizes Egg Safety Rules

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just finalized its egg safety rules. The guidance is meant to assist egg producers in following new rules for reducing Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) contamination.

The FDA issued its egg safety rule in July 2009, with the rule’s provisions going into effect in 2010 for the nation’s largest egg producers, those with 50,000 or more laying hens. At the time of the rule’s issuance, the FDA said it would provide additional guidance, said the Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy (CIDRAP). The FDA published draft guidance August 2010, asking stakeholders for input.

The recommendations address five egg safety rule provisions that include SE prevention measures, environmental testing, and egg testing; sampling methodology; and record keeping for SE prevention plans, said CIDRAP. In its guidance document, the agency said producers must comply with egg safety rule measures; however, recommendations are voluntary. “Producers should select and implement only those recommendations and options from this guidance that are most appropriate and will be most effective for their particular farm and situation,” it wrote, said CIDRAP.

The egg safety rule details mandated measures, while the guidance provides additional specifics and options, explained CIDRAP. According to the FDA, the main change between the draft and final document concerns “different environmental sampling plans for different poultry house styles,” said CIDRAP. The request for this information came from stakeholders.

The document now includes diagrams and photographs on how to retrieve samples in high-rise (pit style), belted system, colony style, single-deck, cage-free, and aviary poultry houses and also discusses biosecurity elements that include traffic barriers and sanitation, pest control, cleaning and disinfection, and related record keeping, CIDRAP explained. The rules now apply to intermediate-sized firms (3,000 to 50,000 birds) and become effective July 2012. Smaller farms remain exempt from the rules.

We previously wrote that the FDA expects its rule to prevent egg-related Salmonella sicknesses by 60%, which translates to 79,000 illnesses yearly, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who was speaking at an earlier press conference concerning the draft document. “Millions in the U.S. still suffer from food-borne illnesses each year. Thousands are hospitalized and too many die. Too often we find ourselves trying to track down the source of an outbreak once it happens, rather than preventing it,” Sebelius added.

CIDRAP also explained that federal agencies first began work to control SE in eggs in the 1990s, with the FDA introducing the first version of the rule in 2004. A major change that the new rule implemented concerned mandating refrigeration during egg storage and transport.

Last year, SE in eggs produced on two Iowa farms resulted in a recall of about a-half billion eggs and nearly 2,000 confirmed Salmonella illnesses. Salmonella poisoning can lead to headache, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, dehydration, fever, and loss of appetite, with the most prevalent symptoms occurring within in six hours and lasting up to three days.

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