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Scientists: Hot weather does not increase the risk of Salmonella contamination in free-range farms

Posted January 7, 2017

Salmonella is scaring people away from eating eggs and chicken. Proper food preparation is all it takes to protect people from Salmonella contamination, but people are still creating myths about this bacterium. Now scientists from the University of Adelaide debunked one of these myths – hot weather does not help spreading Salmonella contamination in the production of free range eggs.

Consumption of free range eggs is on the rise, but people are still concerned about the possibility of Salmonella poisoning. Image credit: Peter O’Connor via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

People noticed that number of cases of Salmonella poisoning from eggs and egg products during the hot summer months is higher and soon connected the dots – eggs produced in heat are more dangerous. Scientists say it is not exactly true and hygiene around egg handling in the supply chain and in household is still the one to blame. The misconception was surrounding free range eggs only, because people were thinking that the problem is in chickens running around in the heat. And so scientists set out to investigate these statements and analyse Salmonella contamination situation in four Australian commercial free range egg farms.

Free range chickens are happier and healthier, but they are also exposed to weather extremes as they are running outside. The consumption of free range eggs is on the rise and that is why scientists were so eager to see if there is any correlation between hot weather and Salmonella contamination in eggs. Professor Kapil Chousalkar, lead author of the study, said: “Our results show that the types and levels of Salmonella found in and around free range egg farms, and on the eggs themselves, is highly variable, often dependant on the specific husbandry and management practices employed by each farm”. However, scientists could not find any relation between hot weather that chickens get exposed to and increased prevalence of Salmonella.

The best protection from Salmonella poisoning still is proper hygiene and people should remember to wash their hands regularly, especially after handling eggs. However, scientists also noted that the surveillance of egg contamination and safety should be increased as well. Every farm had a different level of bacteria on their eggs and every state of Australia has different rules of egg contamination surveillance. It is important that Salmonella contamination is monitored in a standard way across all farms in order to prevent spread of infections.

And thus people should remember the main rules of protection – wash your hands before and after handling eggs, whether at home, in a restaurant, or while working. It is also a good idea to avoid eating raw eggs. Salmonellosis is a dangerous infection, causing diarrhea, fever, vomiting, and abdominal cramps, so it is better to protect yourself from it.


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