Ensuring food safety of eggs

Eggs are a common source of protein around the world. It is estimated that there are around 5 billion laying hens worldwide. The average number of eggs consumed per person is 215 eggs per year, varying greatly depending on the country. Many people around the world fall ill with Salmonella infection, which is spread by eating eggs. Salmonellosis is one of the diseases that must be reported.



Need for disinfection techniques

Current European legislation prohibits all hygienic treatment of foodstuffs, such as chemical disinfection or ionizing radiation, with the exception of ultraviolet radiation (UV). Conventional UV lamps contain many times the environmentally safe level of mercury and require longer exposure times. Most egg producers do not use the technology though, because the hygienic effectiveness is low and the maintenance costs high.

The objective of the EU-funded project named OVOSHINE is to develop a cost-effective, safe, and fast physical method for disinfecting eggs in order to reduce the number of cases of illness caused by either raw eggs or insufficiently heated foodstuffs containing eggs, and increase food safety and security.


Project results

Dangerous Salmonella can reside on egg shells.
© Fraunhofer IGB
Dangerous Salmonella can reside on egg shells.
UV radiation from specially developed excimer plasma lamps can inactivate bacteria and even spores.
© Fraunhofer IGB
UV radiation from specially developed excimer plasma lamps can inactivate bacteria and even spores.

New excimer lamps and UVC LEDs for UV treatment

UV treatment of surfaces has long been known as a process for minimizing the number of organisms able to divide and multiply. Specialized excimer plasma lamps were designed at Fraunhofer IGB and their radiant output vs. distance, spectral distribution, and electrical power consumption tested in the lab for selected specimens. The inactivation effect of the radiation was checked for several species of bacteria using microbiological techniques. In addition, novel UVC LEDs were employed for emitting light at wavelengths considerably below 300 nm.


Inactivation of vegetative cells

Excimer lamps and LEDs with different wavelengths (172 nm, 222 nm, 282 nm, 285 nm, and 308 nm) were investigated. The objective was to reduce the bacterial cell count by a reduction factor1 of at least RF = 4 in just 2-10 seconds, indicating a reduction of cell counts by a factor of 105. Reduction factors of at least RF = 6 within 10 seconds could be demonstrated for vegetative cells in a test system generating reproducible irradiation at various wavelengths and radiation intensities. A reduction factor of RF = 4 was attained without problem for two-second irradiation durations. These values are in reference to investigations using strains of Escherichia coli and Salmonella enteritidis that play a role in contamination of eggs.


Inactivation of endospores

In addition, it was also useful to investigate the extent to which endospores of Bacillus strains could be inactivated using this process, despite the relatively short treatment durations. Although forms of endospores with relatively high natural resistance to radiation were involved, a reduction factor of RF = 4 could be demonstrated with as little as 60 seconds of irradiation. The results obtained with spores of Bacillus atrophaeus thus far are very promising and open up further application areas for the highly effective excimer plasma lamps.



We were able to show that radiation from excimer plasma lamps can be very effective against bacteria and even spores. The UV irradiation system developed by Fraunhofer IGB is a technologically simple and cost-effective alternative to other disinfection or sterilization techniques – one that can be adapted to numerous applications such as in the pharmaceutical and medical fields. There are also applications for sterilizing plastic packaging materials used with foodstuffs.

1 The reduction factor RF is calculated from the starting cell count used and the re-cultivable cells (RF=log (starting cell count) – log (number of re-cultivable cells). A RF of 5 for example indicates a cell count reduction by a factor of 105.

Project information

Project title

OVOSHINE – Low cost, low maintenance and effective system to sterilise eggshells using hot air and excimer UV lamps


Project duration

September 1, 2014 – August 31, 2017


Coordinated by

  • Ateknea Solutions (Spain)


Project partners

  • Ateknea Solutions (Spain)
  • Organización Interprofesional del Huevo y sus productos (INPROVO) (Spain)
  • Baromfi Termék Tanács a Baromfi- és Tojástermelők Szövetsége (Hungary)
  • Ovobel (Belgium)
  • DaRo UV Systems Ltd. (UK)
  • El Canto AGROALIMENTARIA S.L. (Spain)
  • Ibérica de Tecnología Avícola, S.A.U. (IBERTEC) (Spain) 
  • Norwegian Institute of Food (NOFIMA) (Norway)


The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n° 605309.

flag eu