What you should know about how eggs are monitored for food safety

Many agencies of the USDA work to keep eggs safe from farm to table.

Food safety is a major concern and responsibility of the federal, state and local governments. Safe food is an economic priority because consumers take for granted that the food for sale in grocery stores and from farmers markets is safe. Michigan State University Extension wants to insure that consumers understand food safety and the process that keeps our food system safe.  

Multiple agencies with in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) monitor shell eggs and poultry farms to insure safety.  The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) inspects handlers and hatcheries to insure that eggs are “as good or better than Consumer Grade B quality standards.” They insure that the processing plant follows USDA’s sanitation guidelines and proper manufacturing processes. 

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) works to reduce risk of disease in flocks. The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) works to ensure that eggs are kept at a temperature no greater 45 degrees Fahrenheit to reduce the risk of food borne illnesses and works to educate consumers about the safe handling of eggs. The USDA also researches egg safety and egg processing through the Agricultural Research Service and the National Agricultural Statistics Service collects information about the egg industry that is used in economic analyses. 

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) implements the Egg Safety Rule (of 2010) which has been designed to reduce the risk of food borne illness, specifically, Salmonella enteritidis. This includes the provision that large egg-laying production facilities maintain written safety plans and comply with inspections. The FDA Egg Safety Plan also outlines the monitoring of birds for Salmonella and routinely tests flocks as pullets and either once or twice during the lay period.  According to veterinarian Eric Gingerich, “This testing keeps the producers honest and gives them an incentive to vaccinate, use products that improve gut health and perform the management aspects of Salmonella prevention.” 

To keep you and your family safe from Salmonella at home, read about food safety practices from MSU Extension. In cooperation with federal food safety efforts, state agriculture departments assist with monitoring the compliance of egg packers with U.S. standards, grades and weight classes. State and local health departments ensure that retail food establishments comply with health codes and applicable food codes. 

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