In response to the disturbing number of health-related outbreaks associated with improper food handling and preparation, the U.S Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) recently proposed new safety rules be implemented which would require those who manufacturer egg products to develop plans to ensure their products are free of detectable pathogens like salmonella. Salmonella is a bacterial infection that is found most commonly in children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. It is typically generated from food and water contaminated with feces, and has also been linked to reptiles, amphibians, birds, rodents, dogs, cats, horses, and other animals that may be kept as pets. Animals develop the bacterial infection by eating or drinking contaminated food and water as well, and can pass this along to humans.
The new plan includes safety requirements for all associated egg products, including cake, pancake, waffle, and pudding mixes, pasta, ice cream, mayonnaise, and certain salad dressing, cakes, pies, and breads, among other products. Egg products, by definition, refer to eggs removed from their shells for processing at breaker plants, and include whole eggs, egg whites and egg yolks in all different forms, including liquid or solid versions. The FSIS would also take over the regulation of egg substitutes and rules would be implemented pertaining specifically to these products, which pose the same risk and need to be handled with the same level of precaution.
The guidelines would require plants to develop Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) systems and modify any current sanitation operating procedures not up to par with the new requirements. The USDA is also requiring that breaker plants make their eggs edible without additional preparation to achieve food safety. The proposed regulations would require them to maintain control of all egg products that have been sampled and tested for public health hazards, including salmonella, until the final test results become available, and would provide for the use of irradiated shell eggs in the processing of egg products and food products containing them.
The FSIS is proposing that all provisions not in line with regulatory provisions pertaining to meat and poultry be eliminated. This includes labeling. The agency is suggesting that egg products include labeling similar to meat and poultry as well as follow “other consumer protection” requirements similar to those products.
“As we continue to modernize inspection systems and processes, we are committed to strengthening consistency across the services that FSIS inspection personnel carry out for the consuming public,” Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Carmen Rottenberg said. “This proposed rule will ensure the same level of inspection and oversight of all regulated products as we carry out our public health mission.”
Nearly all egg product plants – as many as 93% – already use a written HACCP plan that addresses at least one production step in their process. So, this will help to reduce the overall cost of implementing the new guidelines. A detailed summary will be published in the Federal Register, and there will be a 120 period for public comment once the documents have been made available and the rules have been fully implemented.