Making the Safest Choice

Pasteurized Shell Eggs and Children’s Health

On by Sue Grossbauer, RD

“Children are disproportionately affected by foodborne illness, a serious public health problem,” according to the foodborne illness analysis presented by PEW Health Group and American Academy of Pediatrics (PEW and AAP). In fact, children under age 4are approximately 4 times more likely to be afflicted by Salmonella, as compared with other age groups.

This makes protection from Salmonella a critical health objective in patient education for families with young children.

Epidemiology: Salmonella and kids

  • The incidence of Salmonella infections is 74.65 per 100,000 persons under four years of age.
  • Possible short-term effects include diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, colitis, meningitis, blood infections, heart infections, and death.
  • Possible long-term effects of Salmonellosis in a pediatric population include reactive arthritis, chronic arthritis, eye irritation, and painful urination.
    • Among all foodborne pathogens and across age groups, Salmonella causes the highest number of hospitalizations and deaths.

(Sources: PEW and AAP; CDC Estimates of Foodborne Illness in the US, 2011)

Salmonella protection: pasteurization talking points

Food pasteurization is subject to misconceptions, yet choosing pasteurized options for milk, juice, and shell eggs has a measurable impact on public health. Pasteurization is a crucial defense against foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella, Listeria, E. coli, and Hepatitis A.

Milk pasteurization has dramatically reduced illness rates from milk. Yet every year, there are foodborne illness outbreaks related to unpasteurized milk—an ill-advised yet all-too-common consumer choice. (See details and citations on the SafeEggs.com pasteurization Web page). Also see the FoodSafety.gov page on myths about raw milk.

Shell egg pasteurization is newer and may require further education as patients discover the health and wellness parallels with pasteurized milk. With 1 in 5 Salmonella enteritidis cases tracing back to raw to undercooked shell eggs, choosing pasteurized shell eggs makes sense. The US Department of Agriculture says, “In-shell pasteurized eggs may be used safely without cooking.”

It’s not just about shell eggs, but also about foods like raw cookie dough, homemade ice cream, Caesar salad dressing, and mousse. Cross contamination is an often-overlooked mechanism of pathogen transfer, too. Read more in Where are the Germs in Your Kitchen?

What are your talking points about food safety?

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