The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded Pennsylvania State University a $542,607 grant to improve food safety.
The USDA handed out $10.4 million in grants to 17 universities for research and education.
Penn State researchers will be working with Iowa State University to develop an updated and optimized Egg Quality Assurance Program that will reduce Salmonella Enteritidis contamination of egg shells.
Salmonella Enteritidis is one of the two most common types of Salmonella. It can live inside normal-looking eggs, and when eaten raw, the bacterium causes illness. Symptoms include vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. The illness usually lasts 4-7 days and most people recover without antibiotic treatment.
Subhashinie Kariyawasam, lead researcher at PSU for this project, said that Pennsylvania is one of the first states to come up with a quality assurance program to monitor Salmonella Enteritidis in eggs.
"We monitor poultry houses … And if the poultry in the environment turn out to be positive for Salmonella Enteritidis bacteria, then we ask the producer to submit us eggs," said Kariyawasam. "So then we actually test eggs for the percents of Salmonella again, and if those eggs are contaminated with Salmonella Enteritidis, then those eggs should be diverted to egg breaking facilities, meaning they cannot be sold as shell eggs."
She said that Pennsylvania's Egg Quality Assurance Program (EQAP) was voluntary, but with the Federal Food and Drug Administration's Egg Safety Final Rule, more egg producers are subject to mandatory inspection.
Kariyawasam said that Iowa State University will be a partner in the research because that state recently suffered an outbreak of Salmonella "and Iowa is the nation's first in egg production, they produce more eggs than any other state," said Kariyawasam. "And this project in particular has components, research and extension, and Iowa State will be participating in the extension of this program."
She said about 80 percent of egg producers are being monitored under current regulations, but she believes an update of the EQAP will deliver better results.