Revolutionary Technology by USDA Scientists: Safeguarding Eggs from Pathogens

A tray of eggs awaits the innovative pasteurization process developed by USDA scientists, promising enhanced food safety standards

Raw eggs and egg products pose significant health risks due to Salmonella contamination, leading to foodborne illnesses and fatalities. However, researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have pioneered a breakthrough solution using Radio Frequency (R.F.) technology to combat this menace.

In a recent study conducted at the Agricultural Research Service’s (USDA-ARS) Eastern Regional Research Center in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, scientists employed novel thermal technology to pasteurize eggs swiftly, effectively inactivating Salmonella cells. This innovation comes at a critical time when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate approximately 1.35 million Salmonella infections, 26,500 hospitalizations, and 420 deaths annually in the United States.

Traditionally, pasteurization of eggs has been a time-consuming process, with less than 3 percent of commercial eggs in the U.S. undergoing this treatment. Conventional methods involve submerging eggs in hot water for over 57 minutes. However, the new technology utilizes Radio Frequency (R.F.), where water molecules within the egg align with an electric field, rapidly heating the liquid and reducing Salmonella by 99.999 percent within a mere 24 minutes.

Following treatment, the eggs maintain their quality, including color and other parameters, even when stored under retail refrigeration conditions. Moreover, this advancement holds promise for both small-scale farmers and commercial egg processors, ensuring the production of safe eggs while minimizing Salmonella risks. Notably, this technology opens avenues for specialized markets such as nursing homes, hospitals, and schools, ensuring the delivery of high-quality, pathogen-free eggs.

As researchers at ARS continue to refine this technology, its commercial availability is anticipated in the near future. With every dollar invested in agricultural research yielding $20 of economic impact, initiatives like these underscore the USDA’s commitment to addressing pressing agricultural challenges and safeguarding public health.

The Agricultural Research Service stands at the forefront of scientific innovation within the USDA, dedicating its efforts to finding solutions to agricultural issues confronting the nation on a daily basis. Through groundbreaking research and technological advancements, ARS remains instrumental in shaping the future of food safety and security.

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