Sub standard eggs placing consumers at risk

September 10, 2018

EGGS are a popular source of protein in Fiji.Due to its popularity at meal times, eggs are strictly regulated under the Food Safety Act 2003 to ensure that they meet certain standards and also to ensure that they are safe for consumption.

Sadly, some traders do not adhere to standards when displaying and selling eggs. Because of this, consumers are being placed at risk of contracting dangerous and possibly life threatening diseases.

According to Regulation 37 (1)) of the Food Safety Regulations 2009:Eggs shall only be displayed for sale and sold if:i. there is no putrefaction;ii. the eggs are stored under refrigeration;iii. the package has not been used previously;iv. the package carries an appropriate date marking;v. no development of the embryo has begun; and vi. the shell is free from extraneous matter and unbroken.

However, a recent survey in Labasa found that of the eight traders assessed, none were adhering to these standards. These eight traders included supermarkets and private vendors at the Labasa Market.

It was also noticed that occasionally eggs inside cartes were cracked and the crates emitted a foul smell. Furthermore, there was chicken litter/chicken excreta visible on the egg shells.

The Council views this practice as completely unacceptable. Traders are taking advantage of a popular (an in demand) and comparatively cheap food source, and are providing a sub-standard product to consumers.

There is also substantial research globally, which, clearly states the health risks associated with eggs that are contaminated with extraneous matter.

It is deeply concerning to see that local traders are willing to place significant health risks on consumers.

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (2009), in an assessment of risks associated with eggs and egg products in Australia, concluded that contamination of egg shells with chicken excretaand other foreign elements coming in contact with eggs from the environment where the eggs are laid, lead to the potential risk of Salmonella in humans.Salmonella is a type of bacteria that leads to ‘typhoid fever, food poisoning, gastroenteritis, enteric fever, and other illnesses.

Eggs contaminated with foreign substances such as chicken excreta, chicken feathers have health risks to consumers. Health and other standard bodies need to take heed of these findings.

They must make egg cleanliness and refrigeration mandatory to avoid future risks to consumers.Furthermore, research has shown that while ample cooking may inhibit human intrusion by killing Salmonella bacteria that may have entered into the inner parts of an egg due to its outer shell being contaminated, half cooked eggs are capable of preserving Salmonella bacteria which can pass into humans.

However, eating eggs is not the only way the Salmonella bacteria can be transferred to humans. Handling contaminated eggs, often from contaminated chickens, chicken excreta, chicken feathers and contaminated environment, increases the chances of transmitting the Salmonella bacteria into humans

If egg production companies vaccinated the layer birds against Salmonella then perhaps the risk to consumers would be reduced. However, it is less likely that private, small scale suppliers would be vaccinating the layer birds. Therefore, there has to be strict monitoring of egg cleanliness supplied by the suppliers.

Whilst eggs continue to be sold without refrigeration, sellers need to monitor the conditions and environmental temperature they are kept in and keep in cooler environments of less than 20oc.

Consumers must also be aware of their rights and responsibilities. They should carefully scrutinize the eggs they buy to ensure that they are clean, presentable and fit for consumption.

Sadly, it seems that traders are now pushing this burden of ensuring safety of consumption on to the consumers.

Consumers are urged to contact the National Consumer Helpline on toll free number 155 if they have any queries or would like to lodge complaints.