Microbiological risk assessment of the egg production chain : Background study to provide input for a comprehensive risk assessment of the egg production chain by the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA)
Microbiologische risicobeoordeling eierketens : Achtergrondstudie ten behoeve van een integrale risicobeoordeling van de eierketens door de NVWA
Bolder NM, van den End S, Bouwknegt M, Mughini Gras L, Swart AN, Opsteegh M, Rockx B, van Pelt W, Aarts HJM, van de Giessen AW
RIVM Report 2015-0122
Both eggs and products containing egg are susceptible to contamination with pathogens, mainly bacteria, which can cause disease in humans. Each link in the production and supply chain, from farm to fork, can contribute to this risk. RIVM has therefore estimated how many people become ill due to the contamination of eggs or products containing egg, which risks affect each part of the chain, and what measures can be taken to reduce those risks. This will provide input for a comprehensive risk assessment of the egg production chain by the NVWA.
The eggs that are consumed in the Netherlands are laid mainly by Dutch chickens. A part is imported, including eggs that are processed in the egg products industry. The size of the sector is considerable: every year more than 10 billion eggs are produced for consumption and more than 3 billion are consumed in the Netherlands. Two-thirds of the eggs produced in the Netherlands are exported, mainly to Germany.
The risks to consumers are partly determined by the way the eggs are handled. Good hygiene when using eggs at home significantly reduces these risks. It is also important to heat eggs and food containing raw egg. About three percent of cases of illness due to pathogens ingested from food can be attributed to the consumption of contaminated eggs or products that contain eggs. Food infections caused by eggs are mainly caused by infection with Salmonella bacteria (especially Salmonella Enteritidis). Thanks to measures implemented in the poultry sector in the past years, the number of infections due to contaminated eggs has been reduced. Nonetheless, eggs and pork remain the main source of Salmonella infections in humans.
Throughout the various links of the egg production chain, measures could be taken to further control the microbiological risks. For example, existing measures could be tightened, such as Salmonella monitoring and hygiene measures in the production chain. Good management training and knowledge of regulations are also important. In order to limit the risk of larger-scale contamination due to the upscaling of farms, it is important that this is accompanied by modernisation and better trained employees.
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