Eggs are one of nature’s most nutritious and economical foods, but special care must be taken when handling and preparing fresh eggs and egg products to avoid foodborne illness, sometimes called food poisoning. The inside of eggs that appear normal can contain the pathogen Salmonella that can make people sick, especially if raw or lightly cooked eggs are eaten. Eggs are safe when they are cooked and handled them properly.
How can I reduce my chance of getting a Salmonella infection?
- Consider buying and using pasteurized eggs and egg products, which are widely available.
- Keep eggs refrigerated at 40°F (4°C) or colder at all times. Only buy eggs from stores and suppliers that keep them refrigerated.
- Discard cracked or dirty eggs.
- Wash hands and items that came into contact with raw eggs, including countertops, utensils, dishes, and cutting boards, with soap and water.
Poultry may carry bacteria such as Salmonella that can contaminate the inside of eggs before the shells are formed. Eggs can also become contaminated from the droppings of poultry.
- Cook eggs until both the yolk and white are firm. Egg dishes should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C) or hotter.
- Make sure that foods that contain raw or lightly cooked eggs, such as hollandaise sauce, Caesar salad dressing, and tiramisu, are made only with pasteurized eggs.
- Eat or refrigerate eggs and foods containing eggs promptly after cooking. Do not keep eggs or foods made with eggs warm or at room temperature for more than 2 hours, or 1 hour if the temperature is 90°F or hotter.
- Wash hands and items that came into contact with raw eggs—including, counter tops, utensils, dishes, and cutting boards—with soap and water.
Illness from Salmonella can be serious and is more dangerous for certain people. Older adults, infants, and people with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS, diabetes, or an organ transplant, may get a more serious illness that can even be life-threatening. In most cases, illness lasts four to seven days and people recover without antibiotic treatment. Symptoms include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps.
Symptoms typically appear 6 to 48 hours after eating a contaminated food, though this period is sometimes much longer. Some people can have diarrhea many times a day for several days and the sick person may need to be hospitalized.
Contact your doctor or healthcare provider if you have:
- High fever (temperature over 101.5°F).
- Diarrhea for more than 3 days that is not improving.
- Bloody stools.
- Prolonged vomiting that prevents you from keeping liquids down.
- Signs of dehydration, such as: Making very little urine, dry mouth and throat, dizziness when standing up.
Shell eggs may become contaminated with Salmonella through the laying process, once the eggs are laid, through poultry feed or bedding.
To keep your family healthy, follow the tips below when collecting and handling eggs from a backyard flock:
•Always wash your hands with soap and water after handling eggs, chickens, or anything in their environment.
Adults should supervise handwashing by young children.
Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available.
•Maintain a clean coop. Cleaning the coop, floor, nests and perches on a regular basis will help to keep eggs clean.
•Do not wash feed and water dishes indoors or in areas where food is stored or prepared such as the kitchen sink.
•Don’t let children younger than 5 years, adults older than 65, or people with weakened immune systems from conditions such as cancer treatment, HIV/AIDS or organ transplants, handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry.
•Collect eggs often. Eggs that spend a significant amount of time in the nest can become dirty or break. Cracked eggs should be thrown away.
•Eggs with dirt and debris can be cleaned with fine sandpaper, a brush or cloth. Don’t wash eggs, because colder water can pull bacteria into the egg.
•Refrigerate eggs after collection.
•Cook eggs thoroughly. Raw and undercooked eggs contain Salmonella bacteria that can make you sick.
•Know the local regulations around sale of eggs. If you sell eggs, it is important to follow local licensing requirements.