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Eggs and foodborne illness

Eggs and Foodborne Illness

Q: What is foodborne illness?

A: All foods have the ability to carry microorganisms (like bacteria and viruses) or toxins that can potentially cause illness. Foodborne illness can result if microorganisms or toxins are introduced to food or if bacteria are allowed to grow in or on food. Common symptoms of foodborne illness include headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and cramps. The egg community follows several programs to reduce foodborne illness and produce safe eggs.

Proper cooking and handling of eggs is important to greatly reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Cook eggs thoroughly until the white and the yolk is firm.

Q: How do bacteria, like Salmonella, infect eggs?

A: Bacteria can be both on the outside and inside of a shell egg. Eggs are washed and sanitized at the processing plant to clean off any contamination of the outside of an egg. Bacteria can also be inside an uncracked, whole egg. Eggs may be contaminated by transfer of bacteria within the hen’s ovary or oviduct before the shell forms around the yolk and white. Scientists have found that Salmonella Enteritidis has the ability to grow both in the egg yolk and white.

Proper cooking and handling of eggs is important to greatly reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Cook eggs thoroughly until the white and the yolk is firm

Q: What part inside the egg carries bacteria?

A: If bacteria is present, it is usually in the yolk, according to researchers, because the yolk contains nutrients bacteria need to grow. Bacteria have also been found to grow in the white, but not as often as in the yolk. Egg Safety Center and FDA advise not to eat raw or undercooked egg yolks and whites, or products containing raw or undercooked eggs.

Proper cooking and handling of eggs is important to greatly reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Cook eggs thoroughly until the white and the yolk is firm

Q: How does Salmonella infect eggs?

A: Salmonella are found in the intestinal tracts of animals, birds, reptiles, insects and humans. Salmonella may be found on the outside of the egg shell before the egg is washed, or it may be found inside the egg if the hen was infected prior to egg laying.

Proper cooking and handling of eggs is important to greatly reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Cook eggs thoroughly until the white and the yolk is firm.

Q: What will happen if I eat an egg containing Salmonella?

 

A: Symptoms of salmonellosis include abdominal cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, chills, fever and/or headache within six to 72 hours after eating the contaminated food. The symptoms usually last only a day or two in healthy people but can lead to serious complications in young children, pregnant women, the elderly and others with compromised immunity.

Proper cooking and handling of eggs is important to greatly reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Cook eggs thoroughly until the white and the yolk is firm.

Q: What usually causes salmonellosis?

A: Chicken, eggs, pork, cheese, cantaloupe, tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts, orange juice and cereal have all been linked to outbreaks of salmonellosis. Human carriers can transmit some types of salmonellosis. Salmonella can easily spread from one food to another, too. The majority of reported salmonellosis outbreaks involving eggs or egg-containing foods have occurred in food service kitchens and resulted from inadequate refrigeration, improper handling and/or insufficient cooking. The egg community follows several programs to reduce Salmonella bacteria and produce safe eggs.

Proper cooking and handling of eggs is important to greatly reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Cook eggs thoroughly until the white and the yolk is firm.

Q: What is being done about Salmonella in eggs?

A: The egg industry, the public health community and government agencies have been working diligently to help prevent Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) in eggs. This includes egg safety programs at all steps, from farms through food preparation. Egg farmers procure Salmonella-free chicks, implement protocols for biosecurity and pest control, clean and disinfect poultry houses, and vaccinate chicks. Eggs are held at low temperatures following lay, during transport to the processing plant, and after packing to protect against the rare cases of SE in eggs. The public health community educates on safe food-handling practices. Along with state agriculture departments, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have developed national standards with the goal of reducing egg-related salmonellosis. Scientists continue to conduct research to discover how SE gets into flocks and how its presence might be further reduced.

Proper cooking and handling of eggs is important to greatly reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Cook eggs thoroughly until the white and the yolk is firm.

Q: Can shell eggs be pasteurized or irradiated to destroy Salmonella?

A: Yes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) states pasteurized in-shell eggs can be safely used in recipes calling for raw eggs. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that irradiation can effectively eliminate organisms that cause foodborne illness, such as Salmonella and Escherichia coli (E. coli).

Q: Are egg products pasteurized?

A: All egg products are required by law to be pasteurized. Approximately one-third of all eggs produced in the U.S. are broken and further processed to make egg products sold as retail or food service items or as ingredients for commercial food manufacturers. These may be whole eggs, egg whites or egg yolks, and they may be liquid, frozen or dried. The safety of egg products is regulated by the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service.

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