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Extension > Food > Food Safety > Preserving and Preparing > Eggs and Dairy > Handle Eggs Properly to Prevent Salmonella

Eggs and Dairy

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Handle Eggs Properly to Prevent Salmonella

Suzanne Driessen, Extension Educator — Food Safety

Reviewed 2013 by Kathy Brandt, Extension Educator — Food Safety.

Eggs: you may like them sunny side up or over easy, but it's safer to eat eggs that are cooked well. Today some unbroken, clean, fresh shell eggs may contain Salmonella bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. To be safe, eggs must be properly handled, refrigerated, and cooked.

How does salmonella infect eggs?

Bacteria can be inside an uncracked, whole egg. Contamination of eggs may be due to bacteria within the hen's ovary or oviduct before the shell forms around the yolk and white. Salmonella doesn't make the hen sick. Eggs are washed and sanitized at the processing plant. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 1 in every 20,000 eggs are contaminated with Salmonella. Persons infected with Salmonella may experience diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, headache, nausea, and vomiting.

Who is at risk of illness?

No one should eat foods containing raw eggs. This includes "health food" milk shakes made with raw eggs, Caesar salad, Hollandaise sauce, and any other foods like homemade mayonnaise, ice cream, or eggnog made from recipes in which the egg ingredients are not cooked.

How do you store shell eggs?

Store in the refrigerator set at 40 degrees F or below. Keep them in their carton and place them inside the refrigerator, not in the door. Don't wash eggs because you remove the protective mineral oil coating and increase the potential for bacteria on the shell to enter the egg. Use eggs within 4 to 5 weeks from the day they are placed in the refrigerator. The "sell-by" date will usually expire during that length of time, but the eggs are safe to use.

Don't wash eggs because you remove the protective mineral oil coating and increase the potential for bacteria on the shell to enter the egg.

How do you safely cook eggs?

Hard-cooked eggs should be safe for everyone to eat. The American Egg Board recommends frying, scramble, or poaching eggs until both the yolk and the white are firm.

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