How should I sanitize fresh farm eggs?
Answer: After washing, eggs are sanitized to reduce microbial load.
Chlorine-based sanitizers should be from 50 to 200 ppm (Zeidler, 2002). However, using less than 100 ppm chlorine may help protect the cuticle (Hutchison et al., 2003). One tablespoon of household chlorine bleach, usually 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite, per gallon of water will result in a solution of 200 ppm chlorine (McGlynn, 2009). Free chlorine level must be frequently checked because chlorine is inactivated by organic material such as dirt. Chlorine test strips are available in restaurant supply stores.
Organic requirements permit a final rinse with a chlorine level less than 4 ppm, the limit under the Safe Drinking Water Act. See the OMRI Products List for approved sanitizers and check with the individual company to ensure the product can be used on shell eggs.
Eggs should be dried after washing and sanitizing, and before packing and storing, to prevent fungal and microbial growth. Eggs can be dried by evaporation, with fan assistance, or by wiping.
To learn more on this topic, check out ATTRA’s Small-Scale Egg Handling publication. It addresses collecting, cleaning, grading, storage, and distribution, among other topics.
While you’re at it, take a look at the Poultry section of ATTRA’s website, where we offer a host of useful resources, including publications and podcasts.
Hutchison, M. L., J. Gittins, A. Walker, A. Moore, C. Burton and N. Sparks. 2003. Washing table eggs: A review of scientific and engineering issues. World’s Poultry Science Association. 59:233-248.
McGlynn, William. Guidelines for the Use of Chlorine Bleach as a Sanitizer in Food Processing Operations. Food Technology Fact Sheet. Oklahoma State University. http://osuextra.okstate.edu/pdfs/FAPC-116web.pdf
Zeidler, G. 2002. Processing and Packaging Shell Eggs. p. 1107-1129. In: D.D. Bell and W.D. Weaver (eds.). Commercial Chicken Meat and Egg Production. 5th ed. Springer Publishers, New York, NY.