Collaboration with Synergetic projects

ATEKNEA Hungary and Catalunya exchanged information and experience on egg-industry related projects such as: SHELLBRANE, OVOSHINE and Eggsterilisation.

Eggsterilisation was a project funded by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme under the “Research for SMEs Associations” (capacities) programme.

Project Start Date: 1st of September, 2008

Project duration: 24 months

Grant Agreement nº FP7-SME-2008-2-243529-2

Eggsterilisation project addresseed the current need to assist consortium SME egg producers to control Salmonella contamination through a secure, intelligent and cost-efficient egg sterilisation process.

Within the last decade there has been significant growth in the use of egg products for both home and commercial use, with current worldwide production at 55 million tonnes (up from 32.5 million in 1985). The largest egg producing countries are China, the USSR, the US, Japan and Mexico, with the EC producing 16% of the total world output. The leading EU producers are The Netherlands, Spain, France and Italy. Within the EC, The Netherlands is the leading export country with 76% of its production going to other EC countries. EC countries are large traders of eggs but almost all among themselves.      Although egg consumption varies from country to country, per capita egg consumption in the EU is expected to increase to 15.1kg/head by 2013 (equivalent to approximately 7.1mt).

While low cost, high volume egg production from international producers challenges the competitive advantage of EU sector SMEs, a number of other factors threaten EU producers, most prominent of which are zoonotic pathogens, namely Salmonella egg contamination (Enteritidis and Typhimurium strains) as well as the challenges resulting from increasing regulatory requirements to control disease spread.

In a UK-wide study for the presence of Salmonella in eggs, conducted between March 2005 and July 2006, a total of 1,890 boxes of 6 of more eggs were sampled from commercial establishments with a total of 1,744 eggs tested. Egg samples originated from Spain (66.3%), France (20%), The Netherlands (7.4%) and Germany (2.6%), with the remaining from other EC countries. Findings indicated that 157 eggs were contaminated with Salmonella on the egg shell, resulting in a prevalence of approximately 3.3% and equivalent to 1 in every 30 boxes of 6 eggs.  Results from other recent EU studies also indicate that, EU-wide, the presence of Salmonella can be found in approximately 31% of the large-scale laying hen holdings surveyed with 52% to 80% of affected holdings, in Portugal, Poland and the Czech Republic.

The scientific objective of this project lied in the application of plasma technology for the effective sterilisation of eggs. Plasma is currently utilised in a variety of applications for its low operating costs and non-polluting capabilities. A plasma source is generated when a high voltage electric field is applied between a pair of electrodes, the gas molecules that are exposed to the electric field become ionised and loose some of their electrons. The voltage required to generate plasma differs depending on the gas used. The free electrons and ions create a cloud of high energy that is capable of eroding the surface of the material that is exposed to the plasma. In experiments performed thus far12, atmospheric pressure plasma proves to be a very safe, gentle and rapid method (in seconds) for reducing microbial loads on porous and non-porous surfaces. Experimental data has indicated that thousands of Bacilus subtilis cells were killed in as little as 5 s of plasma at a distance of six cm . Such short exposure times may have little effect in the physical and organoleptic properties of food such as taste and texture, although greatly reducing the bio burden present in foods. The EGGSTERILISATION proposal was built on past scientific research in order to design a sterilisation system for eggs which is suited to the needs of modern industry.

The overall technological objective was to develop an atmospheric pressure plasma source capable of sterilising eggshells – that is fast, at a rate between 5,000 and 10,000 eggs per hour, secure, with no remaining chemicals or harmful residues and low cost (less than 2 Euro cents per egg). The project met the expectiations of the partners and brought in life OVOSHINE project.

OVOSHINE project is soon to launch!  It will seek the problem of the presence of salmonella bacteria in eggs. That is one of the main sanitary challenges of the egg producing sector, since eggs are the first cause of Salmonella outbreaks in all Europe. This bacterium resides in the intestinal tracts of infected hosts and is transmitted from the faeces of people and animals. Salmonellosis is one of the most common enteric (intestinal) infections and is the second most common food borne illness.

There are several types of strains, but two of them Salmonella Enteritidis and Salmonella Typhimurium are responsible for half of all human infections.  Once in the egg, Salmonella is very resistant. A person infected with the Salmonella enteritidis bacterium begins to show symptoms of infection 12 to 72 hours after consuming contaminated food – with infection lasting 4 to 7 days. While most persons recover with or without antibiotic treatment, diarrhoea can be sufficiently severe to require hospitalisation. The elderly, infants, pregnant women and those with impaired immune systems are more at risk with the potential of infections spreading from the intestines to the blood stream and to other body sites and ultimately threatening the life of the infected individual.

The objective of this project is to develop a low cost, secure and fast UV system in combination with hot air to sterilise eggs. The proposed technology provides the following advantages:

  • Unlike other treatments, the OVOSHINE system does not increase the temperature of the egg.
  • The entire shell of the egg will be surrounded by high energetic UV photons that will eliminate the bacteria.
  • No chemical products will be used, thus eliminating egg contamination.
  • A continuous sterilisation system will be used, to be inserted in the production or packing line, facilitating the installation in existing modern production lines.
  • The disinfection process is both fast and of low cost, amounting to a very small contribution to the total egg cost.