Egg Cleaners and Sanitizers
What materials are allowed for use as egg cleaners and sanitizers in organic operations?
By Ana Negrete
Adequate sanitation of shell eggs has always been a great concern. The topic gained special attention in 2010, when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) posted a voluntary market recall of over 500 million shell eggs that were potentially contaminated with Salmonella enteritidis. As a result, USDA agencies such as the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) have joined efforts to improve food safety practices during shell egg packing and processing, including sanitation.
Given that egg shells are porous and hence also permeable, the FSIS has indicated in their Guidance for Shell Egg Cleaners and Sanitizers that compounds used to wash eggs are potential food additives. The guidance also indicates which materials would be acceptable to formulate products for cleaning shell eggs. But what are the guidelines for organic egg processors?
Since egg cleaners and sanitizers are potential food additives, the materials used to formulate such products must be certified organic or listed at §205.605 of the USDA organic regulations. Nonagricultural substances allowed under this section of the regulation include, but are not limited to: chlorine materials, hydrogen peroxide, peracetic acid, potassium hydroxide, sodium hydroxide, and sodium carbonate. For operations using chlorine materials to sanitize shell eggs, the NOP Guidance 5026 allows wash water to contain chlorine at levels approved by the FDA or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, the egg must be immediately followed by a rinse with potable water that does not exceed the maximum residual disinfectant limit for the chlorine material under the Safe Drinking Water Act. This limit is currently set at 4 ppm. For operations using chlorine materials to sanitize breaker eggs, the NOP allows for an exception from the requirement to follow with a rinse step (see NOP Policy Memo 14-2).
Other substances often used in conventional egg packing and processing operations are defoaming agents in egg wash treatments, and mineral oil coatings after eggs are washed. Defoaming agents used in organic operations must also be organic or listed at §205.605. Mineral oils are not found at §205.605, and hence would not be allowed for this use. Organic processors and handling operations should always consult their certifiers before using any cleaners, sanitizers or other substances in order to verify compliance with the regulation.
1. USDA Controls Over Shell Eggs Inspections http://www.usda.gov/oig/webdocs/50601-0001-23.pdf
2. USDA Guidance for Shell Egg Cleaners and Sanitizers http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulatory-compliance/labeling/nonfood-compounds/shell-egg-cleaners-sanitizers/guidance-shell-egg-cleaners-sanitizers
4. NOP Guidance 5026 http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5090760
Revised and updated in July 2018 by OMRI Technical Director Johanna Mirenda. This article was originally published in the Summer 2014 edition of the OMRI Materials Review newsletter.