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Pathogen Prevalence and Microbial Levels Associated with Restricted Shell Eggs

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Restricted shell eggs that do not meet quality standards for retail but maintain acceptable quality for inclusion in further processed eggs are often diverted to further processing. A study was conducted to characterize the microbiological populations present on and in these eggs. On a single day, restricted eggs were collected from three shell egg processing plants a total of three times (replicates). Six shells or egg contents were combined to create a pool. Ten pools of shells and contents were formed for each plant per replicate. Shells and membranes were macerated in 60 ml of diluent. Contents were stomacher blended to form a homogeneous mixture. Total aerobic microorganisms and Enterobacteriaceae were enumerated. The prevalence of Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Listeria was determined by cultural methods. Average aerobic counts were 4.3 log CFU/ml for the shells and 2.0 log CFU/ml for the contents. There were plant × replicate differences for both (P < 0.05 and P < 0.01, respectively). The average Enterobacteriaceae level associated with the shell was 2.4 log CFU/ml and less than 0.1 log CFU/ml for the egg contents, with 36.7% of the samples being positive. One shell sample (0.5% of total samples) was Campylobacter positive. Two shell samples (1.1% of total samples) were Salmonella positive. Twenty-one percent of samples were positive for Listeria (33 shells and 5 contents). Although current pasteurization guidelines are based on Salmonella lethality, the results of this study reiterate the need to revisit the guidelines to determine the effectiveness for other pathogenic species.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Egg Safety and Quality Research Unit, Athens, Georgia 30605, USA

Publication date: September 1, 2007

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