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Egg pasteurization technology

New pasteurization technology could sharply reduce the number of egg-borne illnesses
Photo courtesy of USDA

Less than 3% of the eggs sold in the United States are pasteurized. Currently, pasteurization is done by immersing eggs in hot water, which can lead to cloudy egg whites. New pasteurization technology using radio frequency waves could sharply reduce the number of egg-borne illnesses, and keep the egg white clear.

The process was invented by David Geveke, a chemical engineer with the  USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. He says it works a lot like your microwave.

"It heats all the food almost instantaneously. And the reason of that is because the energy penetrates like a wave through the food, and it jiggles particles around small distances, but very quickly," says Geveke. "And those particles jiggling around actually heat the food up. So, radio waves are exactly the same, they’re just at a little bit different frequency."

It takes 60-minutes to pasteurize an egg with hot water. It only takes 20-minutes using radio waves. Geveke says the technology should lower the cost of pasteurization, making these safe eggs more affordable.

There’s another benefit – your baked goods will be the envy of everyone.

"We baked angel food cakes made from eggs that were processed with our RF technology, and eggs that were processed with 60-minutes in the hot water process," he says. "The angel food cakes from the RF process had 40% greater volume, so in other words, they were fluffier and less dense than the eggs that are pasteurized in the commercial process right now."

RF technology is already being used to reduce pathogens in other food products, but Geveke estimates that it will be about a year before it will be commercially available to egg producers.  

Learn more about this new pasteurization technology

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