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ARS Home » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #144213


item Jones, Deana
item Northcutt, Julie
item Musgrove, Michael
item CURTIS, P.
item Cox, Nelson - Nac

Submitted to: Journal of Food Protection
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/6/2003
Publication Date: 8/1/2003
Citation: Jones, D.R., Northcutt, J.K., Musgrove, M.T., Curtis, P.A., Anderson, K.E., Fletcher, D.L., Cox Jr, N.A. 2003. Survey of shell egg processing plant sanitation programs: Effect on egg contact surfaces. Journal of Food Protection. 66:1486-1489.

Interpretive Summary: Processing plant sanitation is an integral step in producing a quality agricultural product. A survey of nine separate commercial shell egg processing lines sanitation programs was conducted in the southeastern US. Total aerobic bacteria and Enterobacteriacae were enumerated at 16 direct and indirect contact sites along the line. These two populations of bacteria were chosen since they are good indicators of overall sanitation. To assess the sanitation programs utilized, each line was sampled at the end of a production shift and again the following morning before the next shift began. No significant differences were found between contamination levels post- and pre-operational. From the data collected during this study, it appears that sanitation programs utilized in the shell egg processing industry could be more effective. Improvements in plant sanitation could be as simple as changing the cleaning compounds and sanitizers utilized or modifying sanitation procedures. While the bacterial levels recovered during the study may be high, it is also important to consider that bacterial loads recovered from the surface of cleaned shell eggs are lower than those from other raw animal commodities.

Technical Abstract: Sanitation standard operating procedures (SSOPs) are an integral component of process control and often are the first step in implementation of food safety regulations. The objective of this study was to assess and compare the efficacy of sanitation programs utilized in a variety of shell egg processing facilities. In-line, off-line, and mixed operations were evaluated. Sixteen different direct or indirect egg contact surfaces were sampled in an assortment of shell egg processing facilities in the southeast U. S. Samples were collected at the end of a processing day (POST) and again the next morning before operations began (PRE). Total aerobic plate counts (APC) and Enterobacteriacae (VRBG) were enumerated. No significant differences (P > 0.05) were found between POST and PRE bacterial counts for the 16 sampling sites. In general, high APC were found on the wall of the recirculating water tank both POST and PRE. The re-wash belt had considerable APC levels for all plants sampled. High APC counts were also found on the vacuum loaders. The APC counts for washers and washer brushes were relatively low for most plants sampled. Plant sanitation, as determined from direct microbial plating, did not significant differ between post- and pre-operational levels. At this point, it is difficult to draw definitive conclusions concerning how rigid SSOPs should be for the shell egg processing industry.