Script: Risk Assessment: Salmonella in Eggs
Welcome to USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service podcast. Each episode
will bring you cutting edge news and information about how FSIS is working to ensure public
health protection through food safety. While we’re on the job, you can rest assured that
your meat, poultry, and processed egg products are safe, wholesome, properly labeled,
and packaged correctly. So turn up your volume and listen in.
Hello. I’m Alexandra Tarrant with the Food Safety and Inspection Service. Joining me
is Dr. Denise Eblen, branch chief in the Risk Assessment Division, to continue our
discussion on the role risk assessments play in FSIS’ public health mission.
Today we’re going to focus on the risk assessment work the Agency has done related to
Salmonella in eggs.
Hi! So let’s dive right in. When people think of Salmonella, it’s usually
related to raw poultry meat. Is Salmonella a big problem in eggs?
It can be. Salmonella is among the most serious foodborne organisms in this country,
and eggs have long been recognized as a vector. So, hopefully, reduced levels of
Salmonella in eggs and egg products would lead to reduced numbers of human illnesses.
When we started this work, our goal was to examine the available science to identify
the best way to eliminate Salmonella from eggs before it ever reaches the consumer.
How do eggs become contaminated? Won’t washing get rid of any Salmonella on the
Salmonella can survive on eggshells and even in the egg white of intact eggs. In fresh
eggs the membrane surrounding the yolk sac protects the intact yolk. But this
protection breaks down in older eggs, when the membrane becomes ‘leaky’ and
contamination can occur.
And I should mention, FSIS only regulates liquid egg products – such as egg white and
yolks – so that was our primary concern.
In the introductory episode, you described a risk assessment as an analysis of
‘what-ifs’. What were the ‘what if’ questions here?
In this risk assessment, we had two “what if” questions.
The first was “what if we can formulate egg pasteurization procedures to target
Salmonella?” We built a mathematical model to predict how the number of human
illnesses from Salmonella can be reduced with respect to specific egg pasteurization
The second “what-if” question also related to pasteurization was “what if the handling
practices of shell eggs were more carefully controlled?”
And, what were the findings of the risk assessment?
We found that the best way to reduce the numbers of any surviving Salmonella in raw
eggs was pasteurization. Industry has developed a way of pasteurizing eggs and egg
products that kills Salmonella without cooking the product.
Another effective strategy we found was carefully controlling handling practices,
keeping a short interval between production and storage, and storing eggs at a low
These are techniques that plants can review and possibly include in their hazard
Any take-home message for how the shell eggs and egg product risk assessment helped to
manage food-related risks?
In financial matters, you manage risk by adhering to the old saying, “Don’t put all of
your eggs in one basket.”
And when it comes to food safety for eggs - as for many fresh products - you need to
be aware of and follow the four Fight Bac guidelines to keep food safe.
And what are those four guidelines?
- Clean—Wash your hands and surfaces often.
- Separate—Don't cross-contaminate.
- Cook—Cook to proper temperatures, checking with a food thermometer, and
- Chill—Refrigerate promptly.
Where can listeners get more information on the risk assessment on Salmonella in eggs?
More information on this risk assessment, as well as the others, can be found on the FSIS Web site at
Thank you very much Denise! And to all of our listeners, be sure to stay tuned to the
FSIS Web site at www.fsis.usda.gov for more podcasts on risk assessments – as well as
other subjects of interest to small and very small plant owners.
Have an idea for a future podcast? Please email your suggestion to
Thanks again for listening.
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email@example.com. To learn more about food safety, try our web site at
www.fsis.usda.gov. Thanks for tuning