Pockets in other parts of the world have been producing salmonella free eggs for years. The egg industry here in the US, however, took a big shot to the jaw this year after theWright County Egg recall and outbreak, which sickened approximately 1,900 with confirmed salmonella illnesses (and untold thousands with unconfirmed illnesses). But a release today proves that the manufacture of salmonella free eggs can happen even here at home. The State of Maine, which has among the most stringent requirements nationally with regard to flock and egg safety, is Salmonella free.
Under provisions of the new Egg Safety Rule adopted in July by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, federal inspectors recently completed a month-long inspection of Maine’s major commercial egg farms. Routine testing of chicken feces found that no positive test results for Salmonella enteriditis were identified, according to an announcement on Wednesday by Maine’s Department of Agriculture.
Conditions at the Wright County Egg farm stand in stark contrast to Maine’s successes. They collectively show how lack of any attention at all to the infestation and spread of disease can cause a national public health crisis.
Maine got there by paying attention, both by producers and regulators, to building a disease-free flock, examining sources of feed and other raw materials, and taking steps to make sure that the salmonella stayed out. According to an article by Meg Haskell at the Bangor Daily News, "In the more than 20-year history of the Maine program, there have not been any human salmonella illnesses traced to Maine eggs, which are shipped throughout the eastern United States."
Maine’s program contains provisions which are more stringent than the FDA Egg Safety Rule, including that all egg-laying hens be double-vaccinated against salmonella; that birds are blood-tested six to eight weeks after vaccination to assure the vaccine was correctly administered; and that buildings are inspected monthly to assess rodent control. Hoenig said the success of the program demonstrates the importance of the collaborative effort among the state, the testing labs at the University of Maine in Orono and egg farmers.
The FDA estimates that as many as 79,000 illnesses and 30 deaths due to consumption of eggs contaminated with Salmonella enteriditis may be avoided each year through implementation of the new federal rule.