F.D.A. implements rule to ensure egg safety

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration said as many as 79,000 illnesses and 30 deaths due to the consumption of eggs contaminated with Salmonella Enteritidis may be avoided each year once new food safety requirements for large-scale egg products take effect.

The new rules, which were announced by the Obama administration in July 2009, went into effect today and may reduce the number of Salmonella illnesses by nearly 60%.

Under the rules, egg producers with more than 50,000 laying hens are required to adopt preventive measures and to use refrigeration during egg storage and transportation. Egg producers who have fewer than 50,000 but at least 3,000 laying hens whose shell eggs are not processed with a treatment, such as pasteurization, will need to comply with the regulation by July 9, 2012. Producers who sell all their eggs directly to consumers or have less than 3,000 hens are not covered by the rule.

Producers also must maintain a written Salmonella Enteritidis prevention plan and records documenting their compliance.

“Preventing harm to consumers is our first priority,” said Margaret A. Hamburg, commissioner of the F.D.A. “Today’s action will help prevent thousands of serious illnesses from Salmonella in eggs.”
The F.D.A. said egg safety rules implemented in the 1990s helped limit the growth of bacteria in eggs but did not prevent the initial contamination from occurring in many cases.

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