Take care when handling and preparing eggs, since they can harbor Salmonella bacteria. Though new safety rules went into effect a few years ago for U.S. egg producers, the FDA has estimated that almost 80,000 cases of foodborne illnesses and more than two dozen deaths have occurred each year in the U.S. as a result of Salmonella-contaminated eggs.
Here are some egg-cellent tips to reduce your risk:
- Buy eggs that are refrigerated, clean, and not cracked, and before their “sell by” or expiration dates.
- Promptly refrigerate eggs at home, in their carton; don’t store them on shelves of the fridge door. The refrigerator should be 40°F (4°C) or below.
- Cook whole eggs thoroughly until the yolk and white are firm—that means no runny eggs. Cook casseroles and other dishes containing eggs to 160°F (72°C); check with a food thermometer. Don’teat—or let kids eat—raw cookie dough or cake batter if they contain eggs.
- Don’t keep cooked eggs or egg dishes at room temperature longer than two hours.
- Discard raw eggs after three to five weeks past the sell-by date; hardboiled eggs (refrigerated in the shell after cooking) after one week, and cooked egg dishes after three or four days.
- Wash your hands well after handling raw eggs, as well as utensils and all surfaces that come in contact with raw eggs.
- Be wary of foods that may contain raw eggs, such as Caesar salad dressing, hollandaise sauce, homemade mayonnaise, and fresh eggnog. Some restaurants use pasteurized eggs, which makes them safe—ask.
- You can also buy pasteurized whole eggs or pasteurized egg products (more widely available) to use in recipes that call for raw or undercooked eggs. They cost more but are safe because the heat process kills microorganisms, inside and outside the egg.