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Influence of bird environment and behaviour on eggshell cuticle quality and food safety of table eggs

2021 CPRF
A pathogen-free egg is essential for food safety of the nutritious table egg. Egg producers in the United States and Canada are increasingly introducing alternative caging systems into their production chain, as animal welfare concerns become of greater relevance to today’s consumer. Stress introduced by hen aggression and modified nesting behaviour in furnished cages can alter the physiology of egg formation, and thus caging system can affect cuticle deposition / quality. The eggshell cuticle is a non-homogenous, outermost barrier and the first line of defense against microbial food-borne pathogens such as Bacillus cereus, Salmonella Enteritidis and E. coli. Bacterial load on eggshell surface is a key factor in predicting bacterial penetration and contamination of egg interior. The goal of this study is to identify the impact of caging system on eggshell cuticle quality and structure of cuticle pore plugs, and to evaluate the role of cuticle on bacterial load. Cuticle quality and its chemical composition was determined by attenuated total reflection Fourier transform infrared spectrometry (ATR-FTIR). Total cuticle was higher in eggs from hens in free range and enriched cages as compared to free run, while carbonate and sulfate signals were higher in free run than enriched cages. Cuticle protein parameters including OH (R = -0.9560) and amide (R=-0.5758) were negatively correlated with the mineral carbonate signal. Bacterial cell attachment assay showed that numbers of adhering Salmonella Typhimurium cells on the outer surface of eggshells were much higher for controls without cuticle, as compared to eggshells from different housing systems (P=0.0001). A reduction (P=0.025) in bacterial cell counts was observed in eggs obtained from free range as compared to enriched systems. These results indicate that nesting environment and behaviour of birds can impact bacterial adherence and cuticle parameters for their eggs. Cuticle quality is an important aspect of egg defense, and new innovative strategies and technologies for predictive microbiology in order to improve the food safety of table eggs are required. (Supported by LRIC and EFC).
Tags :
behaviour,eggshell cuticle,environment,food safety
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University of Ottawa

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