There continues to be an increase in egg-associated salmonella outbreaks in Victoria. These food poisoning outbreaks occur because of poor storage, poor handling, or using raw or undercooked eggs.
This material has been developed to help people understand the health risks associated with eggs, and how to reduce this risk.
The key message is ‘Eggs need TLC: buy clean, keep cool, cook well’.
Egg safety laws in Victoria
There have been changes to the law for selling eggs and egg products. These laws apply to you if:
- you sell eggs to the public, such as a supermarket, retail outlet, stall or van at markets
- you sell eggs or ‘egg product’ to restaurants, caterers, canteens, schools, hospitals and other organisations. Egg product includes egg pulp, dried egg, liquid egg white or yolk
- you buy eggs from producers and then sell them to other businesses or the public. Other businesses may include supermarkets, retail outlets, market stalls and vans, restaurants, caterers, canteens, schools, hospitals and other organisations.
New egg safety laws – what you need to know
On 26 November 2012, the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code included a new Standard 4.2.5, the Primary Production and Processing Standard for Eggs and Egg Product, and an updated Standard 2.2.2, Eggs and Egg Products.
The new law
Cracked and dirty eggs
Standards in the Code are developed by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).
FSANZ has developed new standards to minimise the risk of salmonella in egg and egg products, which can cause illness.
Cracked or dirty eggs (for human consumption) should not be sold. This includes:
- retail sale to the public
- supply to other businesses – for example, sale to restaurants, caterers, canteens, schools, hospitals and similar places where food is prepared for immediate consumption.
Businesses must only receive or supply eggs that are clean, and not cracked or dirty.
Egg product should not be sold unless it has been pasteurised or heat treated.
New stamping laws apply to chicken eggs and duck eggs:
Chicken eggs. The egg standard requires eggs to be marked with the unique identification of the producer or the processor. An instrument has been made under the Food Act 1984 to delay this requirement for stamping of chicken eggs for 2 years. This means businesses could continue to sell unstamped eggs in Victoria until 25 November 2014.
Duck and quail eggs. An ongoing exemption from stamping eggs for minor species, such as quail and duck, covered by the standard has also been made under the Food Act, because of the impracticability of stamping for these businesses. In Victoria, duck and quail eggs can be sold to the public or be available for catering on an ongoing basis without being stamped.
Salmonella poisoning and eggs
Salmonella poisoning can be a very serious illness, particularly for:
- elderly people
- pregnant women
- people with reduced immunity.
Summer is the prime time for infection.
Raw eggs risk
In many egg-associated salmonella outbreaks in commercial premises, raw eggs were used as an ingredient in foods that were not further cooked.
Examples of foods containing raw eggs include:
- salad dressings
- hollandaise sauces
- egg nog
- health shakes with added raw egg
- chocolate mousse, tiramisu and other desserts.
Food proprietors need to understand that eggs can be a source of salmonella, and they need to take the same precautions with eggs as they would with chicken, meat, seafood and dairy foods, to reduce the risk of food poisoning.
Egg safety facts
Everyone who uses, sells or distributes eggs should be aware of the following egg safety facts:
- Cooking eggs and food containing eggs until they are hot all the way through kills any bacteria that may be present. This is especially important when serving eggs to pregnant women, young children, elderly people and anyone with low immunity.
- When egg shells are dirty, bacteria can contaminate eggs. Washing eggs can make it easier for bacteria to penetrate the porous shell. Dirty eggs should be thrown away.
- You cannot tell by sight or smell whether an egg is contaminated with bacteria. Any bacteria present on the outside of an egg can enter the egg through cracks in the shell, causing a potential health risk. Large eggs are more likely to crack than small ones.
- Eggs require the same level of care as other perishable foods like chicken, seafood, meat and dairy products.
- Food should be used before the best-before or use-by date.
- Many popular foods can be made using raw eggs. Alternative recipes that do not require raw eggs should be considered, especially when serving to people who are elderly, very young, pregnant or have reduced immunity.
- There is no way of knowing whether there are bacteria in or on an egg. Clean eggs are less likely to be contaminated. Refrigeration slows bacterial growth. Thorough cooking kills bacteria.
- Eggs should be kept in the fridge in their carton so you can keep track of the best-before date.