Years ago, you could just look at an egg and tell if it was contaminated. It had a broken or dirty shell. Now a perfectly fine looking egg may contain disease, carrying bacteria such as Salmonella enteritidis. The elderly, small children and those with immune compromised systems are more likely to get sick if they eat these bacteria in raw or undercooked eggs.
Researchers believe salmonella from the infected hen is being passed into the egg before the shell is formed to cover it. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control now estimate that 1 egg in 10,000 may be contaminated.
- To lower the risk of getting sick from bacteria, cook both the egg yolk and the white until firm (145°F). There is a risk in eating "soft-boiled," "sunny side up," "over easy," or "soft scrambled eggs." There is also a risk in "from scratch" Caesar salad dressing or other foods made with raw or undercooked eggs. This can include soft custards, meringues on pies, Hollandaise Sauce, and even French toast. Raw cookie dough isn't safe, either.
- In a restaurant, ask your server if they serve pasteurized eggs.
- If you want to make ice cream (except when using a cooked custard base), eggnog, or mayonnaise, use pasteurized eggs or egg substitutes*. The mayonnaise and products you buy commercially are made with pasteurized eggs, and are safe.
- When cooking or baking foods with eggs in them, you can be sure the bacteria have been killed if the temperature has reached 145°F or above.
- Hard cooked eggs will keep up to a week in the refrigerator. Fresh eggs should be refrigerated as well, and will keep up to 5 weeks.
*Note: Some retail stores now carry pasteurized eggs for the home cook. Look in the refrigerator section. It should say, "pasteurized whole eggs" on the carton. Egg substitutes are also pasteurized.
Pooling eggs for commercial use
Pooled eggs are raw unpasteurized eggs that have been cracked and combined together. The food code requires a food service facility to crack only enough eggs for immediate service in response to a consumer's order.
The reason behind not pooling of eggs is that raw eggs can carry Salmonella (S. enteritidis) and when combined and left for a period of time, this will allow the bacteria to grow. Therefore, the code limits the time to allow pooled eggs for a consumer's order to be limited to 30 minutes.