Comparison of eggshell surface sanitization technologies and impacts on consumer acceptability

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Abstract

Shell eggs can be contaminated with many types of microorganisms, including bacterial pathogens, and thus present a risk for the transmission of foodborne disease to consumers. Currently, most United States egg processors utilize egg washing and sanitization systems to decontaminate surfaces of shell eggs prior to packaging. However, previous research has indicated that current shell egg sanitization technologies employed in the commercial egg industry may not completely eliminate bacteria from the surface of eggshells, and thus alternative egg sanitization technologies with the potential for increased microbial reductions on eggshells should be investigated. The objectives of this study were to compare the antimicrobial efficacy and consumer sensory attributes of industry-available eggshell sanitization methods (chlorine and quaternary ammonium compounds (QAC) applied via spray) to various alternative egg sanitization technologies. Eggs (White Leghorn hens; n = 195) were obtained for evaluation of sanitizer-induced reduction in mesophilic aerobic bacteria (n = 90) or inoculated Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) reduction (n = 105). Sanitizing treatments evaluated in this experiment were: chlorine spray (100 ppm available chlorine), QAC spray (200 ppm), peracetic acid spray (PAA; 135 ppm) alone or in combination with ultraviolet light (UV; 254 nm), and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2; 3.5% solution) spray in combination with UV (H2O2+UV). For enumeration of aerobic bacteria, eggs were sampled at 0, 7, and 14 days of storage at 4°C; surviving SE cells from inoculated eggs were enumerated by differential plating. Sensory trials were conducted to determine consumer liking of scrambled eggs made from eggs sanitized with chlorine, QAC, H2O2+UV, or no treatment (control). The H2O2 and UV treatment resulted in the greatest reductions in eggshell aerobic plate counts compared to other treatments throughout egg storage (P < 0.05). All treatments utilized reduced SE below the limit of detection by eggshell rinse. There were no differences in consumers' liking of overall flavor between the 4 treatments evaluated. The application of H2O2+UV treatment to shell eggs represents a novel technology that could have important implications for egg quality and safety preservation.

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