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Keywords:

  • Consumer-phase risk assessment;
  • domestic food handling and storage;
  • Salmonella enterica serovar Enteritidis;
  • sensitivity analysis;
  • shell eggs

We describe a one-dimensional probabilistic model of the role of domestic food handling behaviors on salmonellosis risk associated with the consumption of eggs and egg-containing foods. Six categories of egg-containing foods were defined based on the amount of egg contained in the food, whether eggs are pooled, and the degree of cooking practiced by consumers. We used bootstrap simulation to quantify uncertainty in risk estimates due to sampling error, and sensitivity analysis to identify key sources of variability and uncertainty in the model. Because of typical model characteristics such as nonlinearity, interaction between inputs, thresholds, and saturation points, Sobol's method, a novel sensitivity analysis approach, was used to identify key sources of variability. Based on the mean probability of illness, examples of foods from the food categories ranked from most to least risk of illness were: (1) home-made salad dressings/ice cream; (2) fried eggs/boiled eggs; (3) omelettes; and (4) baked foods/breads. For food categories that may include uncooked eggs (e.g., home-made salad dressings/ice cream), consumer handling conditions such as storage time and temperature after food preparation were the key sources of variability. In contrast, for food categories associated with undercooked eggs (e.g., fried/soft-boiled eggs), the initial level of Salmonella contamination and the log10 reduction due to cooking were the key sources of variability. Important sources of uncertainty varied with both the risk percentile and the food category under consideration. This work adds to previous risk assessments focused on egg production and storage practices, and provides a science-based approach to inform consumer risk communications regarding safe egg handling practices.