Why Contaminated Eggs In India Is Compromising Food Safety And What We Need To Do To Stay Clear

September 12, 2017

While eggs remain one of the most nutrient rich foods on the planet that benefit both adults and children alike, a lack of proper handling and care has turned natures very own 'multivitamin' into a serious threat to our health. 

A recent study found that Indian poultry farms lack the technical know-how of European nations and follow poor rearing practices. 

Salmonella, one of the most common and leading causes of food poisoning often occurs cattle rearing and poultry farm animals. Unhygienic rearing practices and lack of quality control measures in the country has lead to rampant egg contamination. It is not just the poultry farmers but traders, exporters and even consumers are unaware of the health risks of egg contamination.

Recently, a number of eggs in the domestic market, in retail shops were collected and tested and were found to contain large amounts of salmonella both on the shell and inside the egg.

However, fresh eggs collected from farms indicated less salmonella contamination. Since most consumers buy eggs from retail outlets the chances of contracting salmonella infection increases. 

Developed countries take measures to sterilise the egg surface from contamination especially from Salmonella enteritidis. In India, no such measures are taken and risk of egg increases. Here’s what else the study revealed:

Lack of food safety procedures, improper storage facilities and poor transportation are some of the other causes of deterioration of the eggs.

Contaminated feeds or using feed ingredients without any knowledge of their nutritive value have an impact on egg production. 

Contamination also occurs at the handling and processing stages during the transit. 

Contamination often goes unnoticed, as people don’t think of their eggs as being contaminated. 

Handling and cooking of contaminated eggs also lead to the spread of contaminants. 

Although the FSSAI has proposed standards for fresh eggs in the Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Amendment Regulations, 2017, these standards will come into force once they are approved. The parameters laid down by them include:

Eggshells must be free of blood rings

Eggs must not be soiled or have faecal matter and they must not be cracked or leaking

They’ve laid down the amount of water, protein, fats and carbohydrates that eggs must contain

Eggs must adhere to hygienic parameters and hygienic controls, like time and temperature, that must be observed during production, processing and handling which includes sorting, grading, washing, drying, treatment, packing, storage and distribution to point of consumption.

They’ve laid emphasis on the storage conditions like moisture and temperature so as to reduce microbial contamination, as microbial pathogens are a risk to human health.

Till these standards do come into play after the approval of hopefully all the stringent parameters laid down by the FSSAI, here are some protocols that need to followed to avoid contamination from eggs as much as possible: 

As far as possible figure out the source of eggs that you are buying. It’s better to buy free range, farm fresh eggs.

Containers that have been used to process raw eggs must not come in contact with ready-to-eat food.

Separate eggs in the grocery bags when shopping and in the refrigerator when storing.

The temperature of the refrigerator must be maintained at 33 to 40 degree Fahrenheit.

If eggs are left outside after refrigeration then they need to be discarded within two hours.

Refrigerate eggs only after they have been washed and consume them within two weeks.

If you do take the eggs out of the refrigerator have them within a couple of hours.

Wash your hands with soap and clean surfaces and utensils that have come in contact with raw eggs

Cook your eggs properly and completely to avoid contamination, as dishes where the yolk is not cooked entirely risk contamination.