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Eating Raw Eggs: Look for the Word “Pasteurized” on your Egg Carton

The idea of eating raw eggs has captivated people for decades. The Web is still replete with video clips of Rocky drinking raw eggs—a legend in its own rite.

Eating raw eggs for body-building

From Rocky to Bernarr Mcfadden to Charles Atlas to Arnold Schwarznegger, eating raw eggs has been the mantra of choice for body-builders. In fact, reports Willis Plummer on, “Body builders and athletes have been eating raw eggs for at least the last one hundred years.” points out, “Eggs, whether raw or cooked, are extremely high in digestible protein. They also are high in B vitamins, which can help with cellular repair and improve energy levels, as well as phosphorus and choline.”

In reality, eating eggs raw is not essential to enjoy high-powered egg nutrition. Eggs are full of nutrients when they’re cooked, too. They are a great source of convenient, high-quality protein body-builders (and ordinary people) crave.   But eating raw eggs does have one serious health risk, and there’s a simple solution.

Eating raw eggs can lead to Salmonella foodborne illness.

According to USDA research, 2.3 million eggs are contaminated with Salmonella bacteria every year. And Salmonella bacteria in eggs cause 4 out of 5 Salmonella enteritidis foodborne illnesses. Salmonella is in the chickens and inside the egg, so washing eggs doesn’t help. Even if eggs are organic, cage free, or from a local farm, eating raw eggs carries puts you at risk for Salmonella illness.

Can eating raw eggs also lead to biotin deficiency? Yes, but only if you’re eating two dozen raw eggs or more per day. An egg protein called avidin can make the vitamin biotin unavailable. This is not a concern for ordinary lifestyles.

Egg pasteurization makes eating raw eggs safe.

Most eggs you buy in cartons are not pasteurized. But those that are pasteurized are a great move for egg safety. You can use pasteurized eggs raw in smoothies, undercooked in sunny side-up eggs, or as an ingredient in your chocolate chip cookie recipe –and lick the spoon!

Pregnant women are among those who especially need to avoid eating raw eggs.

During pregnancy, foodborne illness can be especially dangerous to the growing baby. The FDA’s advice to pregnant moms about eating raw eggs: “Purchase pasteurized eggs.”

How do you know? Simple:  “These eggs… are labeled pasteurized.” (Other eggs are not.)

CDC: Avoid eating raw eggs (unless they’re pasteurized)

Young children, older adults, and people with compromised immune systems are among the 1 in 5 people at heightened risk of foodborne illness. For these groups, the CDC says that even “a relatively small number of Salmonella bacteria can cause severe illness.”

But everyone is at risk, according to the CDC. Their advice for people of all walks is, “Avoid eating raw eggs (as in homemade ice cream or eggnog).”

That is, unless the raw eggs are pasteurized. The CDC calls special attention to eggs in restaurants, where the risks of eating raw eggs or undercooked eggs compound. Their directive for foodservice and restaurant managers, just as for consumers, is to use pasteurized eggs.

Eating raw eggs? Check the label on your egg carton.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, too, advises against eating ordinary raw eggs—or undercooked eggs—recommending, “Look for the word ‘pasteurized’ on the label.”

Why they’re safe: “These eggs have been treated to kill all bacteria (just like in pasteurized milk), so they are safe to eat in foods like cookie dough or certain salad dressings,” says the Academy.

You don’t have to be Rocky to delve into the joys of eating raw eggs. And fortunately, we don’t have to be rocket scientists to master egg safety in our own kitchens. Enjoy!