Salmonella contamination of laying hen flocks and shell eggs is associated with various management and environmental factors. Foodborne outbreaks of human salmonellosis have been traced back to consumption of Salmonella-contaminated shell eggs. In the present study, a systematic literature review was conducted to identify and provide an evidence-based overview of potential risk factors of Salmonella contamination of laying hens, layer premises, and shell eggs. This systematic literature search was conducted using AGRICOLA, CAB Abstracts, and PubMed databases. Observational studies that identified risk factors for Salmonella contamination of layer flocks and shell eggs were selected, and best evidence was synthesized to summarize the results. Altogether, 13 cross-sectional studies and four longitudinal studies published in English were included in the review. Evidence scores were assigned based on the study design and quality of the study to grade the evidence level. The strength of association of a risk factor was determined according to the odds ratios. In this systematic review, the presence of previous Salmonella infection, absence of cleaning and disinfection, presence of rodents, induced molting, larger flock size (>30,000 hens), multiage management, cage housing systems, in-line egg processing, rearing pullets on the floor, pests with access to feed prior to movement to the feed trough, visitors allowed in the layer houses, and trucks near farms and air inlets were identified as the risk factors associated with Salmonella contamination of laying hen premises, whereas high level of manure contamination, middle and late phase of production, high degree of egg-handling equipment contamination, flock size of >30,000, and egg production rate of >96% were identified as the risk factors associated with Salmonella contamination of shell eggs. These risk factors demonstrated strong to moderate evidence of association with Salmonella contamination of laying hens and shell eggs. Eggshells testing positive for Salmonella were 59 times higher when fecal samples were positive and nine times higher when floor dust samples were positive. Risk factors associated with Salmonella Enteritidis infection in laying hens were flock size, housing system, and farms with hens of different ages. As a summary, this systematic review demonstrated that Salmonella contamination of laying hen flocks and shell eggs in layer production systems is multifactorial. This study provides a knowledge base for the implementation of targeted intervention strategies to control Salmonella contamination of laying hen flocks and shell eggs.
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Vol. 59 • No. 2