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Rev Sci Tech. 1997 Aug;16(2):542-53.

Epidemiology and control of egg-associated Salmonella enteritidis in the United States of America.

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  • 1United States Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, Washington, DC 20005, USA.


The isolation rate for Salmonella enterica serotype Enteritidis (SE) in humans in the United States of America (USA) increased from 1,207 sporadic isolates identified in 1976 (0.6 isolates/100,000 population) to 10,201 identified in 1995 (4.0/100,000 population). The proportion of reported Salmonella isolates which were SE increased from 5% to 25% during the same time period. In 1990, 1994, and 1995, SE was the most commonly reported reported Salmonella serotype in the USA. Much of this increase has been associated with the consumption of contaminated shell eggs. An examination of the results of a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) survey of spent hens at slaughter and unpasteurised liquid egg at breaker plants (liquid egg processors) in 1991 and 1995 reveals an increase in the prevalence of SE isolates overall and in most regions of the USA. SE phage type 4 (pt 4), the predominant SE phage type in other parts of the world, has emerged in the egg industry in the western USA concurrent with a sharp increase in the number of sporadic human SE pt 4 isolates in California and Utah. Research on the molecular structure and virulence of SE pt 4 isolates from the USA as compared with isolates from other parts of the world (human and poultry) should be a priority. A comparison of DNA from pt 4 isolates from the USA and Europe may provide information about the potential threat to public health and poultry in the USA from this phage type. Some regional success in the reduction of human illness as a result of SE control efforts is apparent. The Pennsylvania Egg Quality Assurance Program has shown progress in reducing SE infection in participating flocks. At a national level, however, neither the incidence of human illness due to SE nor the prevalence of SE in flocks and unpasteurised liquid eggs have decreased significantly, despite the implementation of the USDA 'trace back' regulation from 1990 to 1995, and intensified efforts to educate food handlers and to enforce safe food handling practices. More effort is needed to control SE at every stage of the egg continuum, from production through to consumption. A risk-reduction approach, with barriers to the introduction and multiplication of the pathogen throughout the farm-to-table continuum, is the most practical method for reducing human illness from SE in shell eggs at present. An effective long-term solution will require interdisciplinary efforts involving government, industry, consumers, and academics. Interventions should be developed and evaluated in compliance with the potential for reducing the risk to human health and cost-effectiveness.

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