Utah’s largest egg farms produce 900 million eggs per year, most of them consumed in the state. Yet, with that volume of eggs, no outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis, the strain commonly associated with eggs, has occurred in more than a decade. The Utah Egg Quality Assurance Plan earns much of the credit.
“These are proven methods with proven results,” says David Frame, a veterinarian and poultry specialist with Utah State University Extension. “These methods that have been put in place are done on a scientific basis, and are proven to reduce and minimize any type of Salmonella Enteritidis problem coming out of Utah eggs.”
Food safety remains a critical and essential function of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. The department serves as the regulatory authority for food sold and manufactured in the state, including eggs.
Local egg producer Cliff Lillywhite says the Utah Egg Quality Assurance Plan sets stricter guidelines than even the federal Egg Safety Rule. This should bring comfort at the dinner table.
Yet, egg safety brings more than peace of mind to Utah’s economy. The state’s poultry and egg industry alone exceeds $140 million in revenue, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
“This plan, and all the plans, raise the bar so that you can no longer accept the status quo of the way we have done it for years,” says Lillywhite, whose wife’s grandfather founded Cache Valley- based Oakdell Farms in 1905.
The Utah Egg Quality Assurance Plan focuses on animal care, disease prevention and delivery of a safe product to the consumer, Frame says.
For example, egg producers maintain and record a flock health program. They establish biosecurity measures to deter disease. The producers follow a reduction program for rodents known to transmit Salmonella Enteritidis.
Only approved hatcheries that adopt specific disease-prevention measures provide chicks to Utah’s commercial egg farms. And egg producers must follow approved practices for washing, sanitization and cold storage guidelines after gathering the eggs.
“I think consumers need to be assured that the Utah egg producers are doing everything they possibly can to provide consumers with a safe, high- quality egg,” Lillywhite says. “Consumers can help us by doing two things: Continue the refrigeration process at 45 degrees or less, and follow the guidelines on every egg carton to cook eggs thoroughly before eating them. If they do that, they will never get sick from Salmonella Enteritidis in an egg.”