The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has written its New Year’s resolution for 2017. The consumer demand for cage-free and reduced antibiotics in egg production will be realized in the United States beginning the 1st of January, 2017. How will the FDA ensure food safety in light of these new regulations?
Half a billion eggs recalled in the USA in 2010
How is food safety in egg production handled now? The United States, Europe and Asia all have different disinfection regulations for eggs. In addition to different regional disinfection methods, hygienic treatment handling procedures depending on the end use of the eggs is also different. What this seems to demonstrate is a gap in egg handling standardization. While regionally this doesn’t pose a problem because shipping eggs across continents is not viable, the question is – how can we qualify which method is superior? With any chemical cleaning agent, the long term effects culminates in the need for increased and stronger antibiotic treatments is inevitable.
“The medicine cabinet is empty for some people”
Antibiotic resistant bacteria poses a looming threat. It is an issue that has appeared on the top of the agenda for organizations like Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). At the beginning of this year the first instance of last resort antibiotic resistant E. coli was reported in the United States. “The medicine cabinet is empty for some people. It is the end of the road for antibiotics unless we act urgently” said Thomas Frienden, Director of the CDC. In 2017 the FDA takes on measures to reduce outcomes from food related drug resistant bacteria in egg production, through implementing new regulations reducing antibiotics in egg production and increasing cage-free egg farming solutions, both which consumers associate with healthier, safer eggs.
Are cage-free eggs really safer? Studies on the vulnerability of eggs contaminated in a cage-free system versus battery cage system show results which may be surprising to consumers. In reality, chickens in cage free housing systems are more susceptible to viruses and bacteria. This is due to the extended range of interaction between a higher numbers of chickens, resulting in an exponential increase in the risk of contamination. The resource efficient battery caging systems can vastly reduce the risk of the spread of viruses and bacteria through containment. However, the industry recognized that management failures in battery cage systems have produced inconstancies in the past.
This may be the real underlying issues plaguing the egg industry. Though there are various industry approved methods in egg production for egg cleaning and disinfection, this is the key component in keeping consumers safe. The question remains, how will egg producers keep consumers safe now and in the future? Meaning, how do we ensure egg production is bacteria free now, without creating further antibiotic resistant bacteria strains in the future?
A total bacterial inactivation solution verified by TetraPak for liquid carton packaging and Bühler for 3-dimensional commodities such as nuts and seeds can also be a welcomed solution for the egg industry. With ebeam inactivation, the egg industry could provide a chemical free solution which would not compromise the embryo, as the dose of electrons can be adjusted to varying levels, taking into consideration eggs laid by aging chickens with thinner shells. What does this mean for consumers? Cage-free eggs and ebeam bacteria inactivation could ensure the safest egg production operations, and reduce the growing concern of drug resistant bacteria in food production.
October is the month of celebrating food. On the 14th, global celebrations for eggs take place for World Egg Day and on the 16th the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization focus on topics burdening the world’s food supply. Let’s bring the initiative for safer long-term solutions to the table.