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Are Your Eggs All They're Cracked Up to Be?

by 5m Editor
22 October 2009, at 9:51a.m.

SOUTH KOREA - It turns out there are no regulations in Korea preventing eggs contaminated with bacteria from being used to make these and other baked goods.

According to JoongAng Daily, the current law states that eggs with cracked shells that have not gone through the sterilization process can be used in food products. Moreover, there are no inspection standards for the amount of bacteria in shell-less eggs that haven’t been through a sterilization process, which tests for bacteria and other contaminants.

According to laws on livestock products and the regulations of the National Veterinary Research and Quarantine Service, eggs only have to have a clear color, smell and taste to gain approval for use in food products. There are no regulations on bacterial contamination levels.

The veterinary research and quarantine agency told the JoongAng Ilbo that eggs without their shells can be used in baked goods without having to pass through sterilization tests.

“Eggs could be contaminated with bacteria that can cause food poisoning such as salmonella,” said Kim Jae-hong, a professor at Seoul National University. “Shell-less eggs that haven’t been through a sterilization process should be tested for bacteria before being used in food.”

Egg processing companies, however, say the cost of egg sterilization is prohibitive and question whether it is necessary.

“Why would anyone buy sterilized eggs when everyone else is buying non-sterilized products that have never caused any problems?” said a chief executive of an egg processing company in Gyeonggi, who requested anonymity, adding that bakeries prefer to use non-sterilized eggs.

According to the egg industry, roughly one billion eggs out of the 10 billion consumed in Korea each year are used in food products, and approximately half of those, or 500 million, are estimated to be non-sterilized eggs.

Meanwhile, food companies say that non-sterilized eggs can be used in baked goods because even if the eggs are contaminated with salmonella, the bacteria are eliminated in the cooking process.

Other countries have strict regulations on the use of non-sterilized eggs. The US banned the use of non-sterilized eggs in food products while Japan restricts bacterial levels.