Submitted to: National Egg Regulatory Officials Annual Meeting
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/8/2007
Publication Date: 3/10/2007
Citation: Jones, D.R., Musgrove, M.T. 2007. Microbial Populations Associated with Restricted Shell Eggs. National Egg Regulatory Officials Annual Meeting.
Technical Abstract: Restricted shell eggs are found in all shell egg processing facilities. The manner with which companies handle them can vary greatly. In most cases, restricted eggs are diverted to further processing. Some facilities do not rewash eggs, choosing instead to include dirts in restricted eggs. Eggs from inline facilities are generally processed within 24 h of lay. Nest run eggs can be of varying age before processing. Therefore, the age of the eggs and cleanliness of a lot of restricted eggs can vary greatly from facility to facility. After washing, restricted eggs can be packaged by various means. Many are placed on plastic or pulp flats and stacked directly on pallets which are wrapped in plastic for transport. The pallets are most often unfinished wood or molded plastic forms. Sometimes, restricted eggs are placed in cardboard cases before being palletized. The flats of restricted eggs can also be loaded onto nest run or other types of carts for transport to the breaker. There is no standard amount of time restricted eggs remain in a processing facility before being shipped to the breaker. Most often, these eggs are stored in the post-processing cooler. There are times (such as when processing volume is high) when they may be placed in nest run coolers. Most often, these pallets remain on the processing floor for the whole day before being placed in the cooler. Partial pallets are often brought back to the processing floor the next day to be completed. Through all this activity, restricted eggs can potentially be found in the processing environment in several locations. While the bacterial populations associated with these eggs is of particular concern to further processors and the corresponding regulatory agencies, it is also important to be mindful of the location of these eggs in a shell egg processing facility. Their movement through the facility may allow them to be a point of cross-contamination or source of aerosolized microorganisms. Materials and Methods A study was conducted to determine the levels of aerobic organisms and Enterobacteriaceae associated with the shell and in the contents of restricted shell eggs. Furthermore, samples were compared to determine the incidence of Salmonella, Campylobacter and Listeria. On a single day, three shell egg processing facilities were visited (off line, in line and mixed operation). All three facilities participate in the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service voluntary grading program. At each plant, two 30-egg pulp flats of restricted eggs were collected and transported to the laboratory on ice. This process was repeated for three consecutive weeks (replicates). After arriving at the laboratory, all flats were placed in a single cardboard half case and stored at 4ºC overnight. The next morning, eggs were cracked on the edge of a sterile glass beaker. The contents of six eggs were combined into a single sterile laboratory sample bag. The inside surface of the shells were rinsed with warm, sterile phosphate buffered saline (PBS) to remove any adhering albumen. Six shells were pooled into a sterile specimen cup, 60 ml of PBS were added and shells were macerated with a glass stirring rod for 1 minute according to the methods of Musgrove et al. (2005a). Contents pools were homogenized in a laboratory stomacher at normal speed for 1 minute. Ten pools each of contents and shells were formed for each plant during a replicate. Total aerobic microorganisms were enumerated by spiral plating 0.1 ml of shell diluent onto duplicate plate count agar plates. Aerobic counts were enumerated for contents by spread plating 0.25 ml of homogenized contents onto duplicate plate count agar plates. After 48 h at 37ºC, colonies were counted and recorded as cfu/ml. Enterobacteriaceae were enumerated by duplicate plating 1 ml of either shell diluent or homogenized contents