Egg washing is currently not permitted within the European Union, with few exceptions. This is mainly because there are concerns that cuticle damage could occur during or after the washing process, as a result of a suboptimal operation. In this study, the cuticle coverage levels of 400 washed or unwashed eggs, derived from either a brown or a white egg–laying flock at the end of lay, were compared. The eggs from older hens inherently have poorer cuticle coverage and as a result arguably constitute a greater risk to consumer safety if they are then washed. Thus, the effects of the washing procedure used in this study on cuticle quality were tested under the worst-case scenario. A standard Swedish egg washing process was used. The cuticle coverage of the eggs was assessed by a colorimeter by quantifying the color difference before and after staining with Tartrazine and Green S. The cuticle of an additional 30 eggs from each of the four groups was then visually assessed by scanning electron microscopy. The staining characteristics of the cuticle varied greatly within each group of eggs and showed that the washing process did not lead to cuticle damage. Scanning electron microscopy confirmed that there was no irreversible damage to the cuticle of the washed eggs and that it was not possible to correctly assign the treatment (washed or not) based on a visual assessment. In conclusion, no evidence could be found to suggest that the washing procedure used in this investigation irreversibly changed the quality of the cuticle.
† Present address: Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ) Unit, European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), Largo N. Palli 5/A, I-43121 Parma, Italy. The views and findings in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of position of the European Food Safety Authority.