Eggs have been used as food for about 6 million years. The ancient cultures of Sumer, Egypt and Greece were all familiar with eggs and egg dishes. In ancient Rome, meals often began with an egg course. In fact, the Romans crushed the leftover shells to keep evil spirits from hiding in them.
But eggs can contain another kind of evil spirit if they aren’t handled properly: Salmonella, an organism that causes food poisoning, also called foodborne illness. Salmonella, which can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps and fever, can be found on both the outside and inside of eggs that look perfectly normal.
In otherwise healthy people, the symptoms generally last a couple of days and taper off within a week. But some people such as pregnant women, young children, older adults and persons with weakened immune systems are at risk of severe illness from Salmonella. In these at-risk individuals, a Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.
That’s why it’s important to handle fresh eggs properly and these tips explain how to do so.
Refrigerate eggs promptly: Keeping eggs adequately refrigerated prevents any Salmonella in 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 degrees F (4 degrees C) until they are needed. Use a refrigerator thermometer to be sure.
Refrigerate unused eggs or leftovers that contain eggs promptly.
Keep clean: The outside as well as the inside of eggs can be contaminated.
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.
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.
Eggs should be thoroughly cooked until both the yolk and white are firm. Recipes containing eggs mixed with other foods should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F (71 degrees C).
Eat eggs promptly after cooking. Do not keep eggs warm or at room temperature (between 40 to 140 degrees F) for more than 2 hours. So that means hard cooked eggs should not be eaten if left out over 2 hours.
For recipes that call for raw or lightly cooked eggs, consider using pasteurized shell eggs or pasteurized egg products.
Separate: Never let raw eggs come into contact with any food that will be eaten raw.
Eating out: 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.
Planning that Easter egg hunt? Use plastic eggs instead of hard-boiled eggs. Decorating eggs? Be mindful of the length of time out of refrigeration. The most important tip during this holiday is to make sure eggs that are left out raw or cooked longer than 2 hours are thrown out. Keep everyone safe this holiday!
For more information on family, finances or food or to schedule a program in any area of family and consumer sciences, contact Gale Mills at 918-534-2216 or email [email protected]