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Weapons Research Yields Way to Identify Salmonella-Tainted Eggs

February 27, 1992

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) _ Weapons technology has yielded a way to detect a salmonella-tainted egg by measuring sound as it passes through the yolk and egg white, scientists say.

Eggs contaminated with the bacteria resonate at a higher frequency than normal eggs, the scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory said Wednesday.

″In our experiments, we were able to detect the salmonella in 25 percent of the infected eggs,″ said Roger Johnston, a member of the lab’s physical chemistry-process technology group.

Researchers said the system could one day furnish the egg industry with a cheap, portable and quick way to check eggs on a production line. The system has not been tested outside the lab.

Glenn Froning, a professor of food science and technology at the University of Nebraska, agreed the findings could be a boon to egg producers.

Froning said in a telephone interview that eggs destined for supermarkets are not routinely sampled for the bacteria. The only way to check for a bad egg is to crack it open and test it, he said.

The sound test stemmed from defense research at the lab, where nuclear weapons have been developed since the 1940s.

The approach was first used to distinguish artillery shells laced with chemical or biological agents from conventional shells, lab spokesman John Gustafson said. ″You get completely different acoustic signatures,″ he said.

Salmonella bacteria, often found in chicken and raw or undercooked eggs, sicken about 4 million Americans a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Symptoms include vomiting, fever and abdominal pains.