Every year, roughly 1 in 6 Americans gets foodborne illness, according to the CDC (2011). Salmonella enteritidis in eggs are one way this happens. As a basic comfort food, fresh eggs are nutritious, easy, and economical. No wonder eggs are so popular.
Egg Safety and Egg Recalls
Yet egg safety has hit the news many times in recent years. In 2010, 500 million fresh eggs were recalled due to Salmonella. More than 1,900 people became ill with Salmonella.
Are brown eggs safer? How about organic eggs? Egg safety concerns apply to all eggs on the farm, because organic practices like avoiding hormones have no effect on Salmonella. Brown eggs come from a species of hen. They, too, have no bearing on egg safety.
Organic brown eggs were recalled in 2009 after 92 people became sick with Salmonella. There was another recall of organic eggs in 2011. Read more egg safety updates in the blog post, Organic Eggs Recalled.
Of course, Salmonella is not always detected in eggs and outbreaks do occur. Some have affected the nation’s most vulnerable individuals, such as seniors in nursing homes, or children eating at restaurants.
Egg Safety: Fast Facts
Did you know?
- 2.3 million table eggs are positive for Salmonella enteritis
- 4 out of 5 Salmonella eneritidis illnesses come from eggs
- Of all the bacteria that cause foodborne illness, Salmonella is the only one that’s still on the rise
- And Salmonella is the germ that causes the most hospitalizations and loss of life
Egg Safety: Farm to Fork
Egg contamination begins with chickens on the farm. Salmonella is a common germ among chickens. It infects the inside of an egg, so steps like washing the egg don’t help. Only thorough cooking does, but that’s not always realistic.
The egg safety issue is so serious that the federal government passed an Egg Safety Rule that went into effect in 2010 (before the massive egg recall). It requires inspections for farms with 50,000 or more hens laying eggs. The inspectors focus on environmental conditions and the health of chickens in an effort to make eggs safer.
However, this does not totally solve the egg safety challenge. Salmonella bacteria are quite prevalent on farms. Egg recalls and Salmonella outbreaks have continued, so it’s clear egg safety controls that you can implement for yourself and your family are still important.
Egg Safety and Cross Contamination
An invisible egg safety issue is the constant risk of cross contamination when you crack an egg. Cross contamination means contaminating your kitchen work surfaces—or other foods—with bacteria from (in this case) a raw shell egg.
When you crack an egg, not only do any Salmonella germs get on your hands; they spread across your counter, too. Read the blog post, Where are the Germs in Your Kitchen, to find out the real safety concerns about cracking an ordinary raw egg.
Egg Safety: Protect Yourself
U.S. Department of Agriculture experts who monitor farm activity warn consumers about egg safety, “People should not eat raw or undercooked eggs” due to the ongoing risk of Salmonella in eggs.
Researchers who looked at who’s at risk of foodborne illness say we should replace high-risk foods with safer ones. An example is eggs. Crack only pasteurized eggs, and when you eat out, ask if eggs you’re served have been pasteurized for safety.
This choice goes for recipes that use raw or undercooked eggs, too—Caesar salad dressing, hollandaise sauce, raw cookie dough, homemade ice cream, and homemade eggnog—to name a few.
Keep in mind that seniors and kids are among the most vulnerable to foodborne illness. Food safety for these groups begins with egg safety to control the common Salmonella risk. A food-safe choice for anyone of any age is to choose pasteurized eggs like Safest Choice™ eggs.