The vast majority of eggs in Australia are washed prior to packing to remove dirt and fecal material and to reduce the microbial contamination of the egg shell. The egg contents can be an ideal growth medium for microorganisms which can result in human illness if eggs are stored improperly and eaten raw or undercooked, and it is estimated that egg-related salmonellosis is costing Australia $44 million per year. Egg shell characteristics such as shell thickness, amount of cuticle present, and thickness of individual egg shell layers can affect the ease with which bacteria can penetrate the egg shell and washing could partially or completely remove the cuticle layer. The current study was conducted to investigate the effects of egg washing on cuticle cover and effects of egg shell quality and cuticle cover on Salmonella Infantis penetration of the egg shell. A higher incidence of unfavorable ultrastructural variables of the mammillary layer such as late fusion, type B bodies, type A bodies, poor cap quality, alignment, depression, erosion and cubics were recorded in Salmonella penetrated areas of egg shells. The influence of egg washing on the ability of Salmonella Infantis on the egg shell surface to enter the egg internal contents was also investigated using culture-based agar egg penetration and real-time qPCR based experiments. The results from the current study indicate that washing affected cuticle cover. There were no significant differences in Salmonella Infantis penetration of washed or unwashed eggs. Egg shell translucency may have effects on Salmonella Infantis penetration of the egg shell. The qPCR assay was more sensitive for detection of Salmonella Infantis from egg shell wash and internal contents than traditional microbiological methods. The agar egg and whole egg inoculation experiments indicated that Salmonella Infantis penetrated the egg shells. Egg washing not only can be highly effective at removing Salmonella Infantis from the egg shell surface, but also allows subsequent trans-shell and trans-membrane penetration into the egg. Consequently, it is important to prevent recontamination of the egg after washing.
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