As of July 9, 2012, all farms producing chicken eggs for human consumption with over 3,000 hens were required to comply with the Food and Drug Administration’s Egg Safety Rule. In the original proposed rule, released in 2004, broiler hatching eggs were not included, but in the final Egg Safety Rule, broiler hatching eggs were included.
The hang-up for broiler breeder eggs and the Egg Safety Rule is the refrigeration requirement, which states that eggs need to be refrigerated at 45F within 36 hours of lay or when you collect your eggs. Breeder farms and hatcheries store eggs at 60F prior to incubation to keep the embryos viable.
$10 million price tag
The estimated cost of excluding surplus broiler eggs from the breaker market is $10 million per year, according to Dr. Ashley Peterson, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs, National Chicken Council. She told the audience at the Delmarva Poultry Industry National Meeting on Health and Processing, “This exclusion will result in tens of millions of eggs being removed from the human food chain, which could provide the protein requirements for 10,000 people for a year.”
Peterson said that the National Chicken Council didn’t comment on the proposed rule since broiler hatching eggs weren’t included. When the final rule was published, she said that the National Chicken Council petitioned the FDA in February of 2010 to allow for the group to comment on the Egg Safety Rule, and for the FDA to amend the rule to exempt hatching eggs.
Peterson said the FDA’s response in August of 2010 was “…we have not been able to reach a decision on your petition within 180 days of the filing of the petition because of the limited availability of resources and other agency priorities.” In a June 2012 meeting with the FDA, she reported the FDA said, “We will not be looking at hatcheries until after 2013.”
The FDA suggested that the broiler industry run the Salmonella enteritidis risk model to challenge the temperature requirement, Peterson reported. The model assumes that 2 percent of the Salmonella in the egg is already in the yolk. She thought this was a flawed assumption since the Salmonella would start out in the egg white and has to survive in the egg white and move into the yolk. Once in the yolk, she said the Salmonella would thrive and replicate. Thus if you assume that the eggs have Salmonella in the yolk prior to collection and temperature reduction, she said it would be difficult to demonstrate that Salmonella wouldn’t increase to potentially dangerous levels when the eggs are stored at 60F.
Peterson questioned the food safety benefit of excluding broiler eggs from the breaker market since the products are pasteurized as part of processing. She noted that eggs from S. enteritidis-positive table-egg-laying flocks are allowed to be diverted to the breaker market.