A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for the specific detection of the gene sequence, sefA, encoded by all isolates of Salmonella enteritidis, was developed. The PCR could detect as few as four S enteritidis washed bacterial cells but egg contents inhibited the PCR. Eggs spiked with 50 S enteritidis bacterial cells were homogenised, inoculated into buffered peptone water and grown at 37°C for 16 hours, when the PCR was successful. A positive internal control was developed to differentiate between true and false negative PCR results for the detection of S enteritidis. In a limited trial of the egg handling procedures and the PCR, one of 250 chickens' eggs from retail outlets was found to be contaminated with S enteritidis.