Hydrogen peroxide, UV light could improve egg sanitation

A new twist on the sanitation process incorporates both hydrogen peroxide and ultraviolet light to disinfect against bacteria and other pathogens on egg shells.

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(Terrence O'Keefe)
(Terrence O'Keefe)

A new twist on the sanitation process incorporates both hydrogen peroxide and ultraviolet light to disinfect against bacteria and other pathogens on egg shells.

“The beauty of this process is that you don’t have the issues with washing eggs, but it’s way more effective than a dry technology. You kind of meet in the middle where you have a wet sanitation technique,” Craig Coufal, president, Innovative Poultry Solutions, said.

“As long as the eggs get wet with the peroxide and you expose them to the UV light, it’s pretty much an instantaneous reaction and you get the high level of disinfection you need.”

Traditionally, a process called formaldehyde fumigation is used to sanitize hatching eggs. However, formaldehyde is a known carcinogen that can result in embryo damage. In addition, it requires precise application conditions, and it does not remove the organic matter from eggs, which means that some bacteria can survive.

Hydrogen peroxide plus UV light

A new method combines hydrogen peroxide with UV light can result in near instantaneous microbial reduction, Coufal said.

During the sanitation process, eggs first pass through a spray chamber where they are lightly misted with a dilute solution of hydrogen peroxide. 

“We do use a spray and that’s been one of the hurdles as people are just very anti-getting eggs wet,” he explained. 

Next, the eggs enter a UV light chamber. The UV light splits the hydrogen peroxide molecule, producing hydroxyl radicals. The hydroxyls react and disrupt the cellular structure of any microorganisms present, eliminating bacteria and other pathogens from the shell of the egg.

The combination reduced the aerobic plate count and Salmonella enteritditis on egg shells that experimentally inoculated, according to research published in Poultry Science. Other published research suggests that the sanitation process can increase the rate of hatch, decreased mortality and improve chick quality.

Initially presented as an innovation at the 2019 Poultry Tech Summit, the sanitation process can be applied at any step of the poultry production system, including in-line application with egg packing equipment.

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