Despite the progress made by the U.S. poultry industry over the past few years, Salmonella is still a major issue for businesses, consumers and regulators. Meat and egg producers have been working hard to prevent contamination by implementing strict control over production in an attempt to ensure consumers are protected.

Egg producers have been working in cooperation with the industry representative association, United Egg Producers (UEP), to comply with requirements of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure control of the foodborne disease. Analysis of trends has shown that the number of Salmonella outbreaks linked to eggs has been steadily declining over the past few years.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2007 there were 109,000 cases of Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) egg-borne infection. The highest incidence rate was registered in the Mid-Atlantic region and in New England, where 2.5 people in 100,000 were affected. In the Pacific and the Mountain areas, incidence rates were 1.5 per 100,000. In comparison, in 2000, rates stood at 4.1 and 4.0 per 100,000 in the Mid-Atlantic and New England, respectively.

The improvement in incidence rates can be attributed to a range of measures implemented at both state and federal level. Many of these schemes were voluntary, such as the Egg Quality Assurance Programs, which varied across states, and various projects that encouraged vaccinations and strict rodent control.

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In 2010, a new Final Rule that applied to all flocks of over 30,000 hens came into effect. It mandated a number of requirements, including placement of chicks, temperatures at which eggs were kept, extensive monitoring of flocks and frequent sampling and testing. Most chicken farms had to invest significant sums to ensure compliance with the Final Rule. Apart from upgrading technology, farms also had to undergo a review of their documentation including flock records, rodent and fly control data and acceptable biosecurity precautions. All this added extra costs to poultry businesses.

According to World Poultry, the average annual cost for compliance with the Final Rule is $122,000 per complex. The biggest proportion of that, about $90,000, goes on comprehensive vaccination. Rodent suppression accounts for $16,000 annually, while half as much is allocated to fly control. Maintaining records adds another $5,600, and $1,600 is spent on amortization of compliance costs. Based on a typical complex of 1.25 million hens, projections show that compliance with the Final Rule cost the U.S. industry $32.6 million. However, the actual value may be different, depending on a number of factors such as SE prevalence, value of shell-eggs and products and the capacity of available breaking and pasteurisation, the website noted.

The actual impact of the Final Rule on SE incidence rate will not be known before 2015, when epidemiologic results from 2012 and 2013 are collated and published, researchers said.