In May 2011 a newspaper article made some claims about the egg standard. - Food Standards Australia New Zealand

In May 2011 a newspaper article made some claims about the egg standard. - Food Standards Australia New Zealand

Egg statement

20 May 2011
A recent newspaper article (Sydney Morning Herald 18 May 2011) highlighted an increase in the number of food poisoning cases linked to raw eggs.

The article discussed the issue of refrigeration and said that Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) had “quietly introduced changes to the food standards code, omitting any regulations related to temperature control”.

FSANZ has been working on the primary production and processing standard for eggs for a number of years; work that has involved a thorough risk assessment of egg production and processing in Australia and extensive consultation with industry, scientists, government agencies and the public. The work was also undertaken with the assistance of international and domestic experts.

The new standard places legal obligations on egg producers and processors to identify and control food safety hazards associated with the production and processing of eggs, e.g. minimising the contamination of feed with Salmonella so it is not introduced to the laying flock.

It will work together with existing requirements on food businesses to ensure safe handling and preparation of food for sale.

Unlike many other countries, the types of Salmonella that can contaminate the inside of eggs as they are formed in the bird are not present in Australian laying flocks. While Salmonella can be sometimes present on the outside eggs, it won’t grow, even at room temperatures, because the condition of the egg surface limits its growth.

To be able to grow, Salmonella needs to pass through the cuticle (protective coating) and egg shell, membranes separating the egg components, survive the hostile environment of the egg white and enter the egg yolk.

During its risk assessment FSANZ examined the issue of refrigeration of eggs and this included considering a 2004 Australian Egg Corporation Limited report that recommended refrigeration of eggs throughout the supply chain.

Our review of reported food poisoning outbreaks associated with eggs in Australia indicated that most cases were attributed to consumption of uncooked or lightly-cooked foods containing contaminated raw egg, for example sauces and desserts. It is generally very hard to pin-point an exact source of contamination in outbreaks associated with mixed foods such as these.

Factors that may have contributed to outbreaks included cross-contamination during food preparation (i.e. transfer of Salmonella from the surface of the egg to other surfaces and/or foods) and storage of the food containing raw egg at temperatures that would permit growth of Salmonella (greater than 7°C).

While we acknowledge that refrigeration during retail storage may enhance the quality of eggs, this option was excluded early in the standard development process due to the nature of egg shell contamination in Australia and the substantial cost of implementing such an option.
Full details about the standard including risk assessment reports can be found here

Raw eggs blamed for increase in salmonella

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/national/raw-eggs-blamed-for-increase-in-salmonella-20110517-1eriu.html#ixzz2MThk47tY

Unwanted guest...the Salmonella bacteria can be found in raw eggs. Unwanted guest...the Salmonella bacteria can be found in raw eggs. Photo: Rocky Mountain Laboratories
ZALI BURROWS at first ignored the stomach pains.

But by the end of the day she and every member of her family had severe cramps. Her youngest son, Che, 3, and her 82-year-old grandmother, Deidre, ended up in hospital. Deidre Burrows's stomach cramps were so violent they brought on a heart attack.

Blood tests revealed the family had a severe form of food-borne illness caused by the bacteria salmonella, which the NSW Food Authority later traced to the kitchen of Kam Fook, the Bondi Junction restaurant where the family dined last August for a birthday celebration.

The bacteria's host was found to be raw eggs.

The Burrows family's misfortune was not an isolated event.
Between 2001 and 2008 the number of Australians sickened by egg-related salmonella outbreaks rose from 96 to a staggering 753. The rate fell to 358 in 2009, but eggs are still responsible for more than a third of all food-borne outbreaks linked to the pathogen.

Records obtained by the Herald show the increase can be, in part, traced to lax food safety practices, inadequate farm regulations and the power of retailers to influence food laws.

Martyn Kirk, a senior lecturer in epidemiology at the Australian National University, said eggs had become the most common cause of food-related disease outbreaks.

''This is a big problem for consumers, health departments and industry alike,'' he said.

''Salmonella is not your average gastroenteritis. It can be particularly severe for people who are more vulnerable.''
Restaurants are responsible for the bulk of poisonings: 40 per cent. And while cooking will kill salmonella, restaurants are allowed to serve foods containing raw eggs.

''Most of the vehicles we see associated with outbreaks are foods where the eggs are completely uncooked; things like chocolate mousse, tiramisu, hollandaise sauce and aolis,'' Mr Kirk said.
But the risk is present at every stage of the egg production and sale process, starting at the farm.
Salmonella lives inside the intestinal tract of most birds, including chickens, and eggs can become infected when they are laid or are soiled with faeces.

If eggs are not washed correctly, as required by state and federal law, the pathogen can survive. While salmonella cannot grow on eggs shells, it can survive and contaminate other foods.

While egg producers in NSW are now required to be licensed with the NSW Food Authority, no government body conducts regular bacterial tests on eggs, or monitors the presence of salmonella on farms.

''In recent years there has been less surveillance in animal populations unless there has been a commercial interest,'' said Dr Kirk, who believes salmonella monitoring should be undertaken on farms.

After washing and grading, many eggs are sent to retailers where they are placed on the shelf for sale.
A risk assessment commissioned by the Australian Egg Corporation in 2004 found refrigerating eggs could reduce outbreaks of salmonella. The lead author of the report, the microbiologist Connor Thomas, told the Herald salmonella cannot grow in temperatures below seven degrees, and refrigeration reduces the breakdown of protective membranes inside the egg that stop the bacteria's growth.

''There can be no denying that keeping eggs cooled substantially increases their storage life and their safety,'' said Dr Thomas, of the University of Adelaide.

But last month Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) quietly introduced changes to the food standards code, omitting any regulations related to temperature control.

A spokeswoman for FSANZ said it chose to exclude refrigeration requirements from the standard, in part, because of ''the substantial cost of implementing such an option''.