Egg food safety
Food businesses are responsible for the food they supply and should know the risk associated with the handling of raw eggs or preparing raw egg products, with Salmonella being the main pathogen of concern.
Salmonella is a type of bacteria that can be found in the intestines of birds and other animals. When eggs are laid, the shell and pores can become contaminated.
If Salmonella is on the outside of the egg shell, the eggs will not look or smell ‘off’. But once it has access to the yolk, Salmonella can then grow rapidly. This can happen if there are cracks in the shell that are too small to see. It can also happen during the egg cracking process.
Outbreaks associated with eggs in food businesses usually have the following factors in common:
- lack of skills and knowledge about raw or lightly cooked egg products (handling and storage)
- lack of temperature control
- keeping raw egg products beyond their recommended storage life (maximum 24 hours) at refrigerated temperatures
- combining many eggs together (pooled) for later use, or combining raw egg products from different batches
- poor cleaning and sanitising
- cross contamination
To ensure food is safe to eat, special attention should be given to the preparation, storage and handling of eggs and raw egg products, to prevent the growth of Salmonella.
- purchased eggs must be from a reputable supplier: individually stamped, in clean packaging and accompanied by the supplier information
- all eggs must be clean, free of cracks and not leaking
- if a business has on-site chickens, refer to On-site chickens food safety requirements.
Storing whole eggs
- Store whole eggs (egg in shell) at or below 5°C in a refrigerator or cool room.
- Avoid temperature fluctuations and only take out what is required for service. This helps to prevent the rapid growth of Salmonella when eggs are out of temperature control.
- Store eggs separately from ready-to-eat foods.
- Ensure proper stock rotation.
- Discard any cartons that contain spilt raw egg to avoid cross contamination.
- Maintain traceability.
- Discard any cracked or dirty eggs.
- Do not wash eggs.
- Do not store fresh egg pulp (raw egg whites and/or yolks) that has been collected (pooled) in a bowl or container for later use. Fresh pulp should be disposed of at the end of each service. The use of pasteurised egg pulp is recommended as a lower risk alternative.
- Do not separate eggs using bare hands as there is no opportunity for appropriate hand washing between handling the shell and separating the egg.
- Do not separate eggs by using the shell as Salmonella may be on the surface of the shell.
- Do not break large numbers of eggs into bulk containers and then strain the shell from the mixture. This transfers any Salmonella on the outside of the shell into the pulp.
Equipment, utensils and food contact surfaces
- All equipment and utensils should be in good condition and able to be easily cleaned and sanitised.
- Mechanical equipment, such as blenders and food processors, should be able to be easily taken apart for cleaning and sanitising. If they cannot be taken apart, equipment like stick blenders may not be appropriate for processing raw eggs.
- Businesses may need to use separate equipment for processing raw eggs and raw egg products.
- Food contact surfaces such as equipment, benches and utensils are to be clean and sanitised before use.
- Boards and utensils should be cleaned and sanitised between preparing different foods, especially when preparing foods that will not be further cooked (e.g. salads).
Raw or lightly cooked egg products
Examples of raw and lightly cooked egg products include:
- sauces and spreads made with raw egg, for example mayonnaise, aioli, hollandaise, egg butter
- desserts made without an effective cook step, for example tiramisu, mousse, deep-fried ice cream
- drinks containing raw egg, for example eggnog, egg flip, raw egg high-protein smoothies.
Preparation of acidified raw egg products
Food businesses should use ingredients such as lemon juice or vinegar to acidify raw egg dressings to a pH value below 4.2 to slow Salmonella growth. Food businesses should check the pH with a pH meter or pH strips. Acidification does not make the food safe, but may slow the growth of Salmonella making it a safer option.
- Product acidified to a pH of less than 4.2 inhibits the growth of (but may not kill) pathogenic bacteria, including Salmonella.
- Acidification should occur as part of the preparation step and should be checked to ensure proper acidification has occurred.
- Batches of raw egg mixture should be prepared regularly, rather than making a single large amount and keeping it for a long time.
- Document pH and storage times, store for maximum of 24 hours at or below 5˚C.
- If raw egg product is held out of refrigeration, then storage times and temperatures should be documented to demonstrate evidence of compliance with the 2-hour/4-hour rule.
Preparation of desserts
Using pH as a means of control normally does not apply to desserts (although some desserts may include the use of tartaric acid or lemon juice).
Other ways to help make non-acidified raw or lightly cooked egg desserts safer are to:
- Use eggs that are commercially pasteurised in-shell, liquid, frozen or dried.
- Use eggs pasteurised in-house using a validated and verified method.
- Heat the egg(s) in one of the recipe’s other liquid ingredients over a low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 72°C. Then, combine it with the other ingredients and complete the recipe.
- Consider the use of other validated controls such as water activity (aw).
Safe temperature and time
- Controlling the temperature throughout the operation is critical in minimising microbial growth, e.g. raw egg product should be at or below 5˚C. This includes all operations during receipt, processing, storage and display.
- If the raw egg product is held between 5˚C and 60 oC, there should be documented evidence that the 2-hour/4-hour rule is being met.
- For lightly cooked egg products that are to be held warm (e.g. hollandaise or béarnaise sauces), it is recommended that the product is prepared just before service and held for that service period only (generally up to 2 hours). These products should be discarded after 2 hours.
Handling, storage and display of raw egg products
- Raw eggs products should be prepared, stored and displayed in the same container to prevent extra handling and reduce the potential for cross contamination to other food products or equipment and utensils.
- Use date labels to ensure only fresh batches are used (e.g. labels include ‘raw egg product’ and are dated).
- Do not top up or mix batches of raw egg products.
- Make fresh batches daily.
- Store at 5°C or colder.
- Discard at end of day and store no longer than 24 hours.
- For in-house pasteurised whole eggs:
- store eggs in their shells at 5°C or colder
- keep for a maximum of ten days after pasteurisation process.
- Shelf life of egg products made with in shell pasteurised eggs or pasteurised pulp must be verified by the business. Refer to Safe Food Australia, Food storage section, for guidance.
Food businesses are encouraged to use commercially available versions of these foods. The commercial versions are a safer alternative as they have been heat treated or produced using pasteurised egg.
- commercially produced dressings and sauces
- in-shell pasteurised eggs
- pasteurised egg products
- in-house pasteurised egg.
Food business responsibility
Food businesses should be aware that, although they may attempt to take every precaution to practice safe food handling and storage practices, any food that contains raw eggs may be contaminated with Salmonella and can pose a significant food safety risk.
Food businesses are responsible for the food they supply and should know the risk associated with the handling and sale of raw egg products.
If a food business decides to prepare and sell raw egg products, they are choosing to accept the inherent food safety risk if the raw egg product causes foodborne illness.
Keeping records is not currently a mandatory requirement for some businesses; however documenting processes as recommended in this guidance will be considered the preferred method to demonstrate compliance to producing safe food.
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