European Food Safety Agency Evaluates Salmonella in Egg Production


An upsurge in salmonellosis after 2014 resulted in evaluation of Salmonella infection attributed to various serovars by the European Food Safety Agency. A select panel convened for the review confirmed that Salmonella Enteritidis, S. Typhimurium and S. Infantis should remain "target serovars" in primary breeding and multiplication of chickens. The panel suggested that S. Virchow and S. Hadar could be replaced by S. Kentucky and S. Heidelberg as serovars of food-safety significance. Of these serovars, only Salmonella Enteritidis is considered to be vertically transmitted through the egg by both transovarial and transoviductal routes.

The panel determined that incidence rates in the E.U. could be lowered by concentrating on the serovars of significance.

The high prevalence of salmonellosis attributed to eggs in the E.U. is in all probability due to the fact that unlike in the U.S., eggs marketed in the E.U. are neither washed nor refrigerated. This means that any contamination that occurs during oviposition or in the nest box is not removed and may penetrate the shell and proliferate during storage and transport.

The panel concluded that a lower incidence of salmonellosis was associated with non-caged flocks compared to hens that are confined. This conclusion runs counter to considerations of the mode of transmission of Salmonella and persistence in the environment. This may be a spurious conclusion based on previous studies in Italy and the recent introduction of contaminated eggs from Poland. The SE situation was tolerated by regulatory authorities in that nation over a number of years resulting in continuous dissemination of infection through a number of packing plants to consumers in Western Europe.

Results of the panel review could be interpreted as indicating the need for effective decontamination of shells and post-pack refrigeration which are not mandated practices in the E.U. There is no parallel in the U.S. where compliance with EQAPs and the FDA Final Rule on reduction of Salmonella are enforced. The U.K. operates an effective EQAP under the Lion certification program.