It's no yolk: three-quarters of eggs can make you sick

14 December 2017 - 13:39 By Dave Chambers
Eggs. File photo.
Eggs. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images/ IStock

Academics who bought 468 eggs at shops in Pretoria found contamination on the shells‚ whites and yolks of 73% of them.

Now they say regulations on egg contents are urgently needed to safeguard public health. These should include a requirement that any product containing raw eggs should be conspicuously labelled with a warning that it may contain bacteria that could cause diseases.

E.coli‚ which can cause food poisoning‚ was the most common bacteria found in the 13 egg brands‚ but the finding that alarmed the researchers was salmonella contamination in five brands.

“This raises serious public health concerns‚” veterinary bacteriologist Alexander Jambalang‚ leader of the University of Pretoria research team‚ writes in the South African Journal of Science.

“Using contaminated unpasteurised eggs in different products poses serious health risks to consumers and could lead to multiple infections‚ especially in immunocompromised persons such as those infected with HIV‚ further worsening the disease burden and contributing to an increase in mortality rates.”

Jambalang said the US‚ Canada and the EU had laws on the contents of raw eggs‚ and South Africa needed to fall in line.

“In view of the annual estimated 1.3 billion human infections globally as a result of salmonellosis ... control measures should be put in place in order to safeguard life and contain the spread of the disease‚” he said

The World Health Organisation said strict biosecurity was needed in hatcheries and breeding farms‚ as well as in processing‚ to protect consumers. “WHO encourages the education of farmers and training of food handlers and consumers in food safety as the pivotal point of preventing salmonellosis‚” said Jambalang.

An outbreak of salmonella poisoning in Europe in 2016‚ stemming from an egg packing centre in Poland‚ caused one death‚ 112 confirmed cases and 148 probable infections.

Jambalang said there were “huge challenges” with hygiene on egg farms. “Fomites‚ flies‚ dust‚ faeces and rodents serve as a vehicle for contamination ... during collection‚ washing‚ sorting‚ transportation and packaging of eggs.”