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Egg and Egg Product Safety

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Eggs


Eggs can be part of a healthy diet. However, they are perishable just like raw meat, poultry, and fish. To be safe, they must be properly refrigerated and cooked.

The Importance of Egg Safety

Unbroken fresh shell eggs may contain certain bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. The bacteria are Salmonella Enteritidis (SE). While the number of eggs affected is quite small, there have been some scattered outbreaks. Currently the government, the egg industry, and the scientific community are working together to solve the problem.

What Part Carries Bacteria?

Researchers say that if present, the SE are usually in the yolk or "yellow." But they can't rule out the bacteria being in egg whites. So everyone is advised against eating raw or undercooked egg yolks, whites, or products containing them.

Who Should Be Extra Careful?

People with health problems, the very young, senior citizens, and pregnant women (the risk is to the unborn child) are particularly vulnerable to SE infections. A chronic illness weakens the immune system, making the person vulnerable to foodborne illnesses.

Taking Steps at Home

Proper refrigeration, cooking, and handling should prevent most egg safety problems. Persons can enjoy eggs and dishes containing eggs if these safe handling guidelines are followed.

Don't Eat Raw Eggs

This includes "health-food" milk shakes with raw eggs, Caesar salad, Hollandaise sauce, and any other foods like homemade mayonnaise, ice cream, or eggnog made from recipes in which the raw egg ingredients are not cooked.

Buy Clean Eggs

At the store, choose Grade A or AA eggs with clean, uncracked shells. Make sure they've been refrigerated in the store. Any bacteria present in an egg can multiply quickly at room temperature. Don't wash eggs. At the plant, government regulations require that USDA-graded eggs be carefully washed and sanitized using special detergent. Then the eggs are coated with a tasteless, natural mineral oil to protect them.

Refrigerate Eggs

Take eggs straight home and store them immediately in the refrigerator set at 40°F or slightly below. Store them in the grocery carton in the coldest part of the refrigerator and not in the door.

Use Eggs Within Recommended Times

Use raw shell eggs within three to five weeks. Hard-cooked eggs will keep refrigerated for one week. Use leftover yolks and whites within four days. If eggs crack on the way home from the store, break them into a clean container, cover it tightly, and keep refrigerated for use within two days.

Freeze Eggs for Longer Storage

Eggs should not be frozen in their shells. To freeze whole eggs, beat yolks and whites together. Egg whites can be frozen by themselves. Use frozen eggs within a year. If eggs freeze accidentally in their shells, keep them frozen until needed. Defrost them in the refrigerator. Discard any with cracked shells.

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