safefood research finds eggs produced on the island of Ireland almost totally free from Salmonella

4 April, 2007. Results of a survey commissioned by safefood have shown that eggs produced on the island of Ireland are almost totally free from Salmonella. Just two egg samples from over 5,000 samples surveyed contained Salmonella in the shell. No egg contents were contaminated.  

In the 1980’s, the number of human cases of Salmonella Enteritidis rose dramatically. This was followed by the introduction of legislation, industry codes of practice and quality assurance schemes to control Salmonella in laying flocks. It resulted in a decrease in the incidence of Salmonella in Great Britain and on the island of Ireland.

David McCleery, Chief Specialist in Microbiology with safefood said “This study looked at the prevalence of Salmonella in eggs on the island of Ireland and compared two approaches to Salmonella control, which were introduced after the rise in Salmonella Enteritidis during the 1980’s. In Northern Ireland, a vaccination regime was adopted, whilst in the Republic of Ireland, controls based on routine monitoring for Salmonella and subsequent culling of infected flocks was introduced. The study found that both methods are equally effective in controlling salmonellas.”

Researchers from Queen’s University Belfast, UCD and Strathclyde University analysed over 5,000 samples of six varieties of eggs from flocks north and south of the border, with 30,000 eggs examined in total. The survey yielded only two positive samples, with Salmonella Infantis and Salmonella Montevideo isolated from shells. No egg contents yielded salmonellas. The prevalence was significantly lower than the findings in a recent major UK survey. 

Martin Higgins, Chief Executive, safefood said “The continued decrease in the prevalence of Salmonella Enteritidis in laying flocks on the island of Ireland is very encouraging. The results of this study show that the two methods for controlling Salmonella on the island of Ireland are equally effective in reducing the prevalence in eggs. Infections from Salmonella in the human population are therefore unlikely to result from eating eggs that have been produced on the island of Ireland.”

Consumers should be reminded that eggs with damaged or visibly dirty shells should not be consumed as eggs are porous and bacteria can enter the egg through the egg shell.

Ends

For further information please contact

Niamh Burdett or WHPR         
Tel: 01 6690030        
Mobile: 086 608 6764

Fiona Gilligan / Dermot Moriarty
safefood
Tel: 01 4480600

Editors Notes

This research project was entitled ‘Development of a risk assessment model for Salmonella in shell eggs and processed eggs on the island of Ireland’. The survey ran from April 2005 until April 2006. The project Partners were Queens University Belfast, University College Dublin and Strathclyde University. The Principal contractor was Dr Bob Madden, Queens University Belfast, supported by Paul White of the Centre for Food Safety UCD. The study was funded by safefood.