Egg safety: What you need to know

Green Matters: sunny side down: eggs and salmonella

What you need to know

By Majed Arf

An old dilemma poses the question, which came first, the chicken or the egg? Who cares when your health is concerned. Many know that salmonella, a bacterial illness of the intestinal tract, can strike from poultry such as undercooked chicken, but eggs can send one down with the disease as well.

A person infected with salmonella may experience fever, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and sometimes vomiting beginning up to 72 hours after consuming contaminated food or beverage. The illness usually lasts four to seven days. Even though most recover without treatment, high-risk groups including the elderly, infants, pregnant women and immuno-compromised patients may not and suffer dearly.

Therefore, it’s particularly important to pay attention to hygiene including with the not-so-obvious sources of disease such as eggs. Regulators do. In 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration unveiled regulations, which many adopt worldwide, to curb approximately 79,000 cases of foodborne illness and 30 deaths caused each year by consuming eggs contaminated with salmonella.

These regulations require preventive measures during the production of eggs in poultry houses, such as subsequent refrigeration during storage and ensuring transportation temperatures do not exceed 45 °F (7 °C). Consumers can do their part to avoid succumbing to food poisoning by following the guidelines below regarding proper egg handling:

  • Buy eggs only from stores or other suppliers that keep eggs refrigerated
  • Open the carton and make sure that the eggs are clean and the shells are not cracked
  • Keep eggs refrigerated at home
  • Observe expiration dates
  • Disinfection is recommended, along with washing hands, on cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counter tops with hot, soapy water after contact with raw eggs
  • Eggs should be thoroughly cooked until both the yolk and white are firm
  • Consume eggs promptly after cooking. Do not keep cooked eggs warm or at room temperature for more than two hours
  • Beware of food containing raw or lightly cooked eggs such as cookie dough, homemade mayonnaise and Hollandaise sauce. High risk groups should refrain from consuming raw or undercooked eggs or egg-containing food.

So do your part as well by remaining an ever-vigilant shopper and consumer. Whether scrambled, fried or an ingredient in a dish, the egg is a nutritious food staple consumed worldwide. So when cracking a shell to make anything from an omelet to a sports drink, make sure the egg is the only thing beaten and not your health.


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