From Agriculture Victoria
EGGS are a nutritious food but have the potential to cause illness if they become contaminated with bacteria that can cause food poisoning.
Clean, intact, fresh eggs are unlikely to cause a problem.
However, if eggs are cracked or dirty, contamination of the internal contents can occur and there is a higher risk of illness from consuming the eggs.
Bacteria that live in dirt, feathers or bird droppings can enter the egg through cracks that are sometimes too fine to see.
Once inside the egg, these bacteria quickly multiply to levels that can make people sick.
The best way to avoid contaminating your eggs is by limiting bacterial build up in the environment through simple hygiene practices.
As an egg producer, you need to understand how eggs can become contaminated and how to manage these hazards.
Salmonella is the main bacteria associated with eggs. Illness is often more severe in the elderly, very young children and people who are sick or have an impaired immune system. In extreme cases the illness can result in death.
Make sure the eggs you collect from your birds are as clean as possible.
If you sell your eggs directly to the public from a stall at a market or any similar location, you must:
• register with your council to obtain permission; and
• lodge a Food Act statement of trade with each council in whose district you will be operating.
This tells the council where and when you will be trading.
You can do this online at https://streatrader.health.vic.gov.au.
For more information contact your local council.
Keep your birds healthy – provide fresh, high-quality feed and clean water daily.
Isolate sick birds and seek veterinary advice promptly if hens appear sick.
Discard eggs from birds that appear sick or off their feed. If treating birds with a veterinary medicine, check the label and don’t sell eggs if there is a withholding period.
Keep sheds clean – regularly remove manure and broken eggs, and replace nesting material frequently.
Collect eggs at least once a day – more often in warmer weather. The less time an egg remains in the nest, the lower the risk of contamination.
If you come across a nest of eggs that you didn’t previously know about, do not use them – you have no idea how old the eggs are.
Wash your hands before and after handling eggs to avoid spreading bacteria.
Clean lightly soiled eggs with a clean, dry, abrasive cloth. Sanitise or dispose of cleaning cloths frequently.
Wet washing of eggs is not recommended for home producers because there is an increased risk of contamination if washing conditions are not precisely controlled.
Washing removes the protective cuticle from the eggshell and can increase penetration of bacteria inside the egg.
Candle eggs and discard those with hairline cracks, thin shells and other visible faults.
Candling involves placing eggs in front of a bright light, which penetrates the egg, making the contents visible.
This technique reveals fine cracks and other faults that cannot be seen otherwise.
Eggs should always be stored in clean and undamaged packaging. Remember that reusing egg cartons can cause contamination
Store eggs so the oldest eggs are used first, and record the best before dates.
Keep eggs cool during storage and transport – eggs keep best below 20°C. Ideally keep eggs in the fridge.
Don’t leave eggs in direct sunlight for even short periods, or near equipment that generates heat, for example the back of a fridge, or near a stove.
Avoid large temperature fluctuations during storage and transport – this can cause condensation on the egg surface, which can allow surface bacteria to move inside the eggshell.
If you have any doubt about the safety of eggs, or have eggs that are past their best before date, throw them away.