WASHINGTON – The Food and Drug Administration has issued draft guidance to help free-range egg producers comply with federal egg-safety rules and prevent Salmonella Enteritidis contamination.

FDA's draft guidance offers measures to control for SE by preventing wild birds, rodents, cats and other animals from entering outdoor access areas where laying hens roam. The document also gives advice on conducting environmental sampling for SE, and discusses considerations related to vaccinating laying hens.

FDA officials visited eight poultry farms in California, Texas, Arkansas, Washington, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and Massachusetts from August to September 2012 to get first-hand observations of the range of laying operations with variations in poultry house design and field conditions. In a blog post, Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, said the visits gave FDA "a real sense of some egg producers' practical needs and the challenges they face."

"The new guidance is specifically intended to help those egg producers who provide their poultry with outdoor access comply with the rule’s various requirements such as biosecurity, rodent and pest control, cleaning and disinfection and refrigeration," Taylor wrote.

"Egg producers who allow outdoor access face different environmental realities from facilities that keep their hens inside. The new guidance provides suggestions on how egg producers with 3,000 or more laying hens can protect their poultry from predators, pests, wild birds and other animals and comply with the new egg regulation, yet still provide hens outdoor access. (Egg producers with fewer than 3,000 laying hens and egg producers who sell all of their eggs directly to consumers are exempt from the Egg Safety Rule.)"