Out of 1,355 FDA inspections of U.S. registered egg farms, only 10 farms received warning letters from the agency, John Sheehan, director, division of dairy, egg and meat safety, CFSAN, FDA, reported.

“We think that this is a very good result,” he told the audience at the recent United Egg Producers’ Legislative Board & Committee Meetings in Washington.

Sheehan said environmental samples were taken by FDA inspectors on 235 egg farms and only 3 percent of these were found to be positive for Salmonella enteritidis (SE). He explained that samples were taken on “targeted inspections.” So this result represents significant improvement when compared with prior published incidence rates of 8 to 9 percent gathered prior to the Egg Safety Rule’s implementation in 2010.

Unfortunately, just as the reduced percentage of Salmonella-positive broiler carcasses after chilling hasn’t seemed to reduce human cases of Salmonellosis, neither has the reduction in SE contamination on layer farms.

Sheehan said: “The incidence of (human) foodborne illness with SE that is attributable to eggs has not really gone down that much.” He elaborated, “If anything, there might even be a slight upward increase since 2010, so I think we still have a lot of work to do on SE and maybe also on other serovars that have transovarian potential like Heidelberg and typhimurium. Heidelberg is definitely an increasing concern.”

The Salmonella Heidelberg strains that caused food safety problems in broilers and turkeys in the past few years were caused by strains that reproduced more rapidly than typical strains. I have received anecdotal information that this rapid reproduction has rendered some attempts to vaccinate birds with existing vaccines unsuccessful. The rapid multiplication of the Salmonella makes it harder for vaccines to control infections because the strain can overgrow during the time it takes for the bird’s immune response to protect it.