LSU AgCenter experts say U.S. eggs are safe

Richard Bogren, Reames, Elizabeth S., Lavergne, Theresia

News Release Distributed 08/23/10

The recent salmonella outbreak associated with the two Iowa egg farms has raised concern about the safety of consuming eggs. However, consumers can be confident that U.S. eggs are safe, according to LSU AgCenter experts.

The number of eggs involved in the recall amounts to less than one percent of the total eggs produced annually in this country, said Theresia Lavergne, LSU AgCenter poultry specialist. And, the egg farms involved in the recall are cooperating fully with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ensure that no additional illnesses occur.

While salmonella can be a human health problem, the chance of an egg being contaminated is small (about one in 20,000), Lavergne said. The tough food safety procedures used in the egg industry prevent contamination. The egg industry uses sanitary housing systems, biosecurity programs and conducts regular testing for salmonella. Cleaning and inspecting eggs also prevents contamination, Lavergne said.

Eggs in the current recall and outbreak were contaminated by chickens with no signs of illness. In this case, the salmonella infects the chicken’s ovaries and is in the egg before the shell is formed. Therefore, despite all the egg industry does to prevent outbreaks, it is critical that consumers use proper food storage and preparation techniques, Lavergne said. Like meat, poultry, dairy products and other foods, eggs need to be stored in the refrigerator, cooked thoroughly and eaten without delay.

“It is important for eggs to be cooked to a temperature of 160 degrees to kill bacteria, including salmonella,” said Beth Reames, LSU AgCenter nutritionist.

When it comes to buying and storing fresh eggs, Reames said buy only clean, uncracked eggs from a refrigerated display case at the grocery, take them straight home and refrigerate them right away.

“Store eggs in the coldest part of the refrigerator and keep them in the carton to protect them, not in the refrigerator door,” Reames said. Raw eggs can be kept refrigerated in their cartons for three to five weeks beyond the “sell-by” date printed on the carton, which is the last day the eggs can be sold.

“Never eat raw eggs – or any foods in which the raw egg ingredients are not cooked,” Reames said. “Cook eggs thoroughly. To ensure safety, eggs must be cooked until yolks are firm. Scrambled eggs should not be runny.”

Raw eggs and other ingredients combined according to recipe directions should be cooked immediately or refrigerated and cooked within 24 hours.

If a recipe calls for uncooked eggs, make it safe by heating the eggs in one of the recipe's other liquid ingredients over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 160 degrees. Then, combine it with the other ingredients and complete the recipe, Reames said.

Egg products such as liquid eggs distributed for consumption are pasteurized and may be used in products that will not be cooked.

“To prevent food-borne illness, keep eggs and egg dishes either cold or hot,” Reames says. That means below 40 degrees for cold foods and above 140 degrees for hot foods.

“Discard eggs and all perishable foods such as meat, poultry and casseroles left at room temperature longer than two hours – or one hour if temperatures are above 90 degrees,” Reames said.

The symptoms of salmonella infection are fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. The symptoms usually begin within 12 to 72 hours after consuming contaminated food. The illness can last up to seven days. Most people will recover without treatment, but some may be ill enough to require hospitalization. As with any food-borne illness, infants, elderly and those with impaired immune systems are the most vulnerable to serious illness.

Rick Bogren
1/4/2011 1:08:19 AM
Rate This Article:

Have a question or comment about the information on this page?

Innovate . Educate . Improve Lives

The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture