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Safe as Eggs

The egg has been viewed as a symbol of new life and has been associated…

  • May 20, 2019

The egg has been viewed as a symbol of new life and has been associated with springtime celebrations, such as Easter and Passover, for many centuries. But, even during festive occasions, eggs can cause food poisoning (also called foodborne illness).

That’s why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reminds consumers to follow safe food handling practices when buying, storing, preparing, and serving eggs or foods that contain them during their springtime celebrations and throughout the year.

Bummer in the Summer

Harmful Salmonella bacteria can be found on both the outside and inside of eggs that look perfectly normal. Protect yourself and your family by following these food safety tips to prevent food poisoning:

Clean

  • Wash hands, utensils, dishes, and work surfaces (counter tops and cutting boards) with soap and hot water after contact with raw eggs and raw egg-containing foods.
  • Discard cracked or dirty eggs.

Separate

  • Never let raw eggs or the utensils that touched them come into contact with food that will be eaten raw.

Cook

  • Cook eggs thoroughly until both the yolk and white are firm. Lightly cooked egg whites and yolks have both caused outbreaks of Salmonella infections.
  • Casseroles and other dishes containing eggs should be cooked to 160° F. Use a food thermometer to be sure.
  • Eat eggs promptly after cooking. Do not keep eggs warm or at room temperature (between 40° to 140° F) for more than 2 hours.
  • For recipes that call for raw or undercooked eggs (like Caesar salad dressing and homemade ice cream), consider using pasteurized shell eggs or pasteurized egg products. Look for the word “pasteurized” on the label to be sure.

Chill

  • Buy eggs only if sold from a refrigerator or refrigerated case. Keeping eggs adequately refrigerated prevents any Salmonella bacteria in or on the eggs from growing to higher numbers (which makes them more likely to cause illness).
  • At home, keep eggs refrigerated at 40° F or below until they’re needed. Use a refrigerator thermometer to check.
  • Refrigerate unused eggs or leftovers that contain eggs promptly.
  • For school or work, pack cooked eggs with a small frozen gel pack or a frozen juice box.

Eating Out

  • Avoid restaurant dishes made with raw or undercooked, unpasteurized eggs.
  • When in a restaurant, ask if they use pasteurized eggs before ordering anything that might result in consumption of raw or undercooked eggs (such as Hollandaise sauce or Caesar salad dressing).

Take Action

If you think that you or a family member has a foodborne illness, contact your healthcare provider immediately. Also, report the suspected foodborne illness to FDA in either of these ways:

  • Contact the Consumer Complaint Coordinator in your area. Locate a coordinator here: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/ReportaProblem/ConsumerComplaintCoordinators
  • Contact MedWatch, FDA’s Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program by phone at 1-800-FDA-1088. You can also file a voluntary report at http://www.fda.gov/medwatch.