The U-S food and drug administration says that as many as eighty-thousand illnesses and thirty deaths due to consumption of contaminated eggs may be avoided each year with new food safety requirements for large-scale egg producers. In eggs, it’s “salmonella enteritidis” or S.E., that is the most toxic to humans, and the reason for the recent recall of millions of eggs nationwide. The FDA now mandates that farmers undergo “egg tests” if any samples test positive for the strain.The University of Maine at Orono conducts salmonella environmental and egg testing on commercial producers for the state, but experts say Maine has been ahead of the federal government for years. Anne Lichtenwalner heads the animal health lab at the University, “In the late 80’s the state of Maine actually instigated a salmonella risk reduction program for our poultry industry so the big poultry producers over 50,000 laying hens and that actually exceeded what the FDA is now requiring,” she says. UMaine also offers testing to small farms and individuals who are not required by law to conduct any type of testing.In recent years, the number of Mainers raising their own chickens has grown. Experts estimate that there could be thousands of small flocks throughout Maine. “I really like the idea of knowing where my food comes from,” Trina Raven says. The Raven family in Thorndike has their own backyard coop with about a dozen birds. Not only is there peace of mind in knowing where the eggs come from, but Trina Raven says the quality of egg is better than store bought.