The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a regulation requiring shell egg cartons to bear safe handling instructions because of eggs' association with Salmonella Enteritidis. The required statement is as follows: "Safe Handling Instructions: To prevent illness from bacteria: keep eggs refrigerated, cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook foods containing eggs thoroughly."

The rule also requires that eggs be placed promptly under refrigeration at 45 degrees F or lower upon delivery at retail establishments, including supermarkets, restaurants, caterers, vending operations, hospitals nursing homes and schools.

The rule is a part of the larger Egg Safety Action Plan -- a farm-to-table approach for ensuring the safety of the U.S. egg supply -- announced by President Clinton in December 1999. The plan, a joint effort by the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) seeks to reduce by 50 percent the number of Salmonella illnesses attributed to contaminated eggs by 2005, and eliminate egg-associated SE illnesses by 2010.