Since ancient times, the egg has been regarded as a symbol
of new life and has been associated with springtime celebrations, such as
Easter and Passover. But, even during festive occasions, eggs can cause food
poisoning (also called foodborne illness) if they are not handled
properly. That’s why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reminds
consumers to handle fresh eggs safely during their springtime celebrations and
throughout the year.
Salmonella can be found on both the outside and inside
of eggs that look perfectly normal. These bacteria can cause nausea, vomiting,
diarrhea, cramps, and fever. In otherwise healthy people, these symptoms
generally last a couple of days and taper off within a week. But certain
people, such as pregnant women, young children, older adults, and persons with
weakened immune systems, are at greater risk for severe illness from Salmonella.
In these individuals, aSalmonella infection may spread from the intestines
to the bloodstream, and then to other parts of the body. In some cases, the
infection can lead to death unless the person is treated promptly with
Tips for Handling Eggs Safely
The outside as well as the inside of eggs can be
Wash hands and all food contact surface areas (e.g., counter
tops, utensils, dishes, and cutting boards) with soap and water after contact
with raw eggs.
Discard cracked or dirty eggs.
Never let raw eggs come into contact with food that will be
eaten raw (or with utensils that could cross-contaminate other foods).
Cook Eggs Thoroughly
Cooking reduces the number of bacteria present in an egg;
however, a lightly cooked egg with a runny egg white or yolk still poses a
greater risk than a thoroughly cooked egg. Lightly cooked egg whites and yolks
have both caused outbreaks of Salmonella infections.
Cook eggs thoroughly until both the yolk and white are firm.
For recipes containing eggs mixed with other foods, cook eggs to an internal
temperature of 160ºF (71ºC).
Eat eggs promptly after cooking. Do not keep eggs warm or at
room temperature (between 40º to 140ºF) for more than 2 hours.
For recipes that call for raw or lightly cooked eggs,
consider using pasteurized shell eggs or pasteurized egg products.
Refrigerate Eggs Promptly
Keeping eggs adequately refrigerated prevents any Salmonella
bacteria in or on the eggs from growing to higher numbers (which makes them
more likely to cause illness).
Buy eggs only from stores that keep them refrigerated.
At home, keep eggs refrigerated at 40°F (4°C) until they are
needed. Use a refrigerator thermometer to be sure.
Refrigerate unused eggs or leftovers that contain eggs
Avoid restaurant dishes made with raw or lightly cooked,
unpasteurized eggs. When in a restaurant, ask if they use pasteurized eggs
before ordering anything that might result in consumption of raw or lightly
cooked eggs, such as Hollandaise sauce or Caesar salad dressing.