Colored eggs are emblems of Easter. But eggs, when not handled with special care, can cause food poisoning, also called foodborne illness. Salmonella, an organism that causes 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 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.
- 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.
SOURCE U.S. Food and Drug Administration