Egg Products and Food Safety
Of the 93.1 billion eggs consumed in 2022, 29.7% were in the form of egg products (eggs removed from their shells). Liquid, frozen, and dried egg products are widely used by the foodservice industry and as ingredients in other foods, such as prepared mayonnaise and ice cream.
What Are Egg Products?
The term "egg products" refers to eggs that are removed from their shells for processing at facilities called "breaker plants." The processing of egg products includes breaking eggs, filtering, mixing, stabilizing, blending, pasteurizing, cooling, freezing, or drying, and packaging. This is done at U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-inspected plants.
Basic egg products include whole eggs, whites, yolks, and various blends—with or without non-egg ingredients—that are processed and treated to reduce or eliminate foodborne illness causing bacteria. The most common lethality treatment used to reduce or destroy bacteria in egg products is pasteurization. Other treatments inspected by Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) include heat treatment and high-pressure processing.
Who Inspects Egg Products?
Congress passed the Egg Products Inspection Act (EPIA) in 1970. The EPIA provides for the mandatory continuous inspection of the processing of liquid, frozen, and dried egg products. From 1970 to 1995 the Poultry Division of USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service inspected egg products to ensure they were wholesome, otherwise not adulterated, and properly labeled and packaged to protect the health and welfare of consumers.
In 1995, FSIS became responsible for the inspection of egg products. FSIS inspects all egg products, with and without added ingredients, with the exception of those products exempted under the Act. Officially inspected egg products will bear the USDA inspection mark.
The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for the inspection of imitation eggs (such as egg replacers), dietary foods, eggnog mixes, and similar products that are exempted from inspection under the EPIA.
Imitation eggs are not to be confused with egg substitutes. Egg substitutes consist of egg whites, artificial color, and other non-egg additives that have the equivalent nutrition of an egg product and are under FSIS’ jurisdiction.
Why Are Egg Products Useful?
Egg products are used widely by the foodservice industry and the commercial food industry. They are scrambled, made into omelets or used as ingredients in egg dishes or other foods such as mayonnaise or ice cream. Food manufacturers use pasteurized egg products because of their convenience and ease in handling and storing. Because egg products are required to be edible without additional preparation to achieve food safety, institutional foodservice operators, such as fast-food chains, restaurants, hospitals, and nursing homes, use egg products to ensure a high level of food safety. Some egg products are sold in retail food stores.
How Are Egg Products Made?
Egg products are processed in sanitary facilities under inspection by the USDA. Shell eggs are processed into egg products by automated equipment that washes and sanitizes the shells, breaks the eggs and separates the whites and yolks. The liquid egg product is filtered, mixed with other ingredients if necessary, and is then chilled prior to additional processing. The resulting egg products’ liquid then receives a lethality treatment. Lethality treatments are processes used by plants to eliminate Salmonella and other pathogens in egg products. Lethality treatments achieve a specific reduction in the number of Salmonella and other pathogens in the product..
Why and How Do Egg Products Receive a Lethality Treatment?
The EPIA requires that all egg products distributed for consumption be pasteurized. This means that they must be rapidly heated and held at a minimum required temperature for a specified time to destroy harmful bacteria. Pasteurization destroys Salmonella, but it does not cook the eggs or affect their color, flavor, nutritional value, or use.
Since Congress enacted the EPIA, the industry has developed different types of egg products, to include dried egg products. Dried egg whites receive a heat treatment over the course of a week or longer. In addition, the industry has used alternate technologies to destroy the Salmonella in egg products, such as high-pressure processing..
Can Pasteurized Egg Products Be Used as an Ingredient in Uncooked Foods?
Egg products can be used in baking or cooking (e.g., scrambled eggs). They are pasteurized but are best used in a cooked product, especially if served to high-risk persons such as infants and young children, pregnant women, older adults and people with weakened immune systems (e.g., transplant patients and those with HIV/AIDs, cancer, diabetes, and kidney disease.) Use a food thermometer to be sure that the internal temperature of the cooked product reaches 160 F.
Egg products can be substituted in recipes typically made with raw eggs that won't be cooked (for example, Caesar salad, Hollandaise sauce, eggnog, homemade mayonnaise, ice cream, and key lime pie). The USDA does not recommend eating raw shell eggs that are not cooked or are undercooked due to the possibility that Salmonella may be present.
Buying Tips for Egg Products
Buy only egg products that bear the USDA inspection mark (shell eggs are not egg products). Make sure containers are tightly sealed. Frozen products should show no signs of thawing. Refrigerated products should be kept at 40 F or below. Dried egg products should not be caked or hardened and should be maintained in a cool, dry place.
What is USDA Commodity Dried Egg Mix?
USDA Commodity Dried Egg Mix (or Dried Egg Mix) was initially developed for the military in the 1930s. It is a blend of dried whole eggs that have been removed from their shell, nonfat dry milk, soybean oil, and a small amount of salt. There is very little moisture in it. To reconstitute, blend 2 tablespoons of Dried Egg Mix with ¼ cup water to make the equivalent of one large whole egg.
Dried Egg Mix is packaged in 6-ounce pouches, equivalent to about six eggs each. The mix is distributed by USDA to food banks, Indian reservations, and programs that serve families in need. It is also used to feed people during weather disasters (e.g., victims of hurricanes and floods).
A similar product called All Purpose Egg Mix, containing a greater proportion of eggs, is now being manufactured for USDA. It is reconstituted by mixing one part egg mix with two parts water (by weight). All Purpose Egg Mix is made available to schools as part of the National School Lunch Program and is packaged in 10-pound bags.
Safe Handling and Storage of Egg Products
Safe handling and storage are necessary for all egg products to prevent bacterial contamination. Here are recommendations from USDA:
Liquid Egg Products
- Follow the storage and handling instructions provided by the manufacturer.
- For liquid products without an expiration date, store unopened containers at 40 F or below for up to 7 days (not to exceed 3 days after opening). Do not freeze opened cartons of liquid egg products.
- When stored at 0 F or lower, frozen egg products will remain safe indefinitely but for best quality, store up to one year.
- Frozen egg products can be thawed in the refrigerator and stored for 3 days after opening. They can also be thawed under cold running water and cooked immediately. DO NOT THAW ON THE COUNTER. After thawing, cook and do not refreeze.
- After cooking, refrigerate leftover egg products at 40 F or lower. Leftover egg products will remain safe in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
Dried Egg Products
Unopened dried egg products and egg white solids can be stored at room temperature as long as they are kept cool and dry. After opening, store in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container.
Reconstituted egg products should be used immediately or refrigerated and used that day.
USDA Commodity Dried Egg Mix
- USDA Commodity Dried Egg Mix should be stored at less than 50 F. After opening, use within 7 to 10 days. Reconstitute only the amount needed at one time. Use reconstituted egg mix immediately or refrigerate and use within one hour.
Nutrition of Egg Products
Egg products sold at retail are also required to bear nutrition facts information. The "Nutrition Facts" panel will tell you the nutrient composition of that specific product per serving and its contribution to your overall diet.
Labels on Egg Products
In addition to nutrition information on consumer packages, other labeling information is also required for egg products. All egg products must be labeled with:
- An ingredients statement if the egg product is comprised of two or more ingredients. The ingredients are listed in descending order of predominance;
- the name and address of the packer or distributor;
- the lot number or alternative code indicating the date of production;
- the net contents;
- the official USDA inspection symbol and plant number of the official plant where the product was processed; and
- a handling statement such as “Keep Refrigerated,” “Keep Frozen,” “Perishable Keep Under Refrigeration,” if an egg product requires special handling to maintain its wholesomeness;
- the common or usual name of the product indicating the type of eggs or egg products used in the product, e.g., ‘‘Frozen Whole Turkey Eggs.’’ Egg products labeled without qualifying words as to the type of egg used in the product must be produced only from the edible egg of the domesticated chicken, e.g., “Frozen Whole Eggs.”.