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Radio Frequency Pasteurization of Shell Eggs

Salmonella is one of the most common causes of food poisoning in the United States. While only a small fraction of shell eggs may harbor salmonella, the public health and safety risks posed by consumption of raw or undercooked eggs stem from the fact that millions of eggs are eaten each day. The public health hazard is greatest for people with weakened immune systems, including the very young, the very old and hospital patients.

Researchers at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and the USDA have developed a novel technique and device for rapidly pasteurizing eggs in the shell without damaging the delicate egg white, thereby preserving food quality. The process can pasteurize shell eggs in about one-third the time that current methods require and can produce an egg whose taste and appearance are virtually indistinguishable from the those of a fresh, unpasteurized egg. The technique and device are being scaled up at Kuhl Corporation, a New Jersey company that produces poultry manufacturing equipment.

The technology transfer offices of USDA and PPPL executed the following agreements: a patent license agreement with PPPL/USDA, an Interagency Agreement with the Department of Energy (DOE)/USDA, and a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with USDA/Kuhl Corporation.

In addition to the transfer of technology during the cross-agency research effort, another benefit of the transfer effort is improved egg safety. Because this novel technique and device rapidly pasteurizes eggs in the shell, it could reduce the number of egg-borne Salmonella cases in the U.S. by up to 85 percent, or more than 110,000 cases per year. In addition, it applies a technology that is used to heat the plasma in fusion experiments to a technique for improving public health and safety in the food supply.

Contact: Laurie Bagley, (609) 243-2425, lbagley@pppl.gov

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Region: 
Northeast