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Title: ARS Egg Safety and Quality Research Unit

item Gast, Richard

Submitted to: United States Animal Health Association Proceedings
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/15/2006
Publication Date: 10/15/2006
Citation: Gast, R.K. 2006. ARS Egg Safety and Quality Research Unit: Organization and Activities. United States Animal Health Association Committee on Salmonella Proceedings, p 22.

Interpretive Summary: Same as abstract.

Technical Abstract: Early in 2005, the USDA Agricultural Research Service created a new research group at the Russell Research Center in Athens, Georgia. The Egg Safety and Quality Research Unit (ESQRU) was formed by combining scientists and support personnel from other local ARS groups who had a common interest in research on this important agricultural commodity. The stated mission of the new group is “to protect both the health of consumers and the marketability of eggs by conducting research to develop improved technologies for egg production and processing that reduce or eliminate microorganisms that can transmit disease to humans or cause spoilage.” Among the specific objectives of this research are determining how microbial pathogens infect poultry and cause egg contamination, understanding how poultry production practices can influence such infections, developing effective methods for preventing infection of egg-laying poultry by pathogens and for testing to detect infected flocks and contaminated eggs, and improving egg processing practices to reduce microbial contamination while enhancing egg quality. The new ESQRU has three primary research projects funded by ARS: Controlling Egg Contamination with Salmonella enterica by Understanding its Evolution and Pathobiology (Dr. Jean Guard-Bouldin, Lead Scientist and Dr. Richard Gast, Research Leader; Stress Effects on Immunity and Physiology of Poultry (Dr. Peter Holt, Lead Scientist and Dr. Randle Moore); and Egg Processing Safety, Quality, and Security (Dr. Deana Jones, Lead Scientist and Dr. Michael Musgrove). Some of the early research results generated by this new group include (1) identification of bacterial properties of some Salmonella strains that enable them to cause egg contamination in infected chickens; (2) demonstrating that prompt refrigeration is important to prevent rapid multiplication of Salmonella that can migrate into the nutrient-rich contents of egg yolks; (3) showing that molting hens by feed withdrawal causes physiological changes in the gut and increases susceptibility to Salmonella infection but alternative methods for molting induction do not have this effect; and (4) demonstrating the effectiveness of current commercial egg washing practices for removing Salmonella from egg shells and showing that washing in cooler water may provide an alternative method more compatible with the need for rapid egg refrigeration.