The reduced use of antibiotics in poultry production, particularly at the hatchery, has increased the importance of setting only “clean” hatching eggs in incubators. But visibly clean eggs can still carry bacteria and mold into the incubator where they can negatively affect the rate of hatch and the survival of hatchlings on the farm. Turkey hatching eggs are commonly washed prior to incubation, but washing broiler hatching eggs is not common practice in the U.S. Fumigation with formaldehyde is no longer done in U.S. hatcheries.

Bacterial contamination of table eggs continues to be a food safety risk for egg producers. Washing of eggs for human consumption is common in the U.S., but is not done in many other countries.

Craig Coufal, Ph.D., founder and president, Innovative Poultry Solutions LLC, discussed how hydrogen peroxide and ultraviolet light can be used in tandem to significantly reduce the microbial lode on eggshells on November 21, 2019 at the Poultry Tech Summit. In research published in Poultry Science, the hydrogen peroxide and ultraviolet light treatment was found to significantly reduce the aerobic plate count and Salmonella enteriditis on egg shells that were experimentally inoculated. The microbial counts for eggs treated with hydrogen peroxide and ultraviolet light were significantly lower than those of eggs treated with chlorine spray, quaternary ammonium compound spray or peracetic acid spray, either alone or in combination with ultraviolet light.

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Coufal also discussed published research which demonstrates the efficacy of the hydrogen peroxide and ultraviolet light treatment for sanitizing hatching eggs. Sanitizing the eggs can increase the rate of hatch and improve the quality of hatchlings. Hatching egg sanitation with hydrogen peroxide and ultraviolet light can improve hatchability and performance of broilers. He said Innovative Poultry Solutions has 15 units in the field in the U.S. to treat chicken hatching eggs, either on the breeder farm or at the hatchery. The process can be done at the breeder farm before eggs are packed for transport to the hatchery or immediately before setting the eggs in the incubator. Since the reaction of the hydrogen peroxide and ultraviolet light happens quickly, the ultraviolet light is only applied for around 4 seconds. This means the equipment has a small footprint.