Eggs are an important source of essential nutrients, vitamins and proteins. But with the outbreak of salmonella, what can be done to stay safe?
Eggs have always been an excellent source of protein and vitamins in many cultures. According to a report from the U.S Department of Agriculture, eggs contain vitamins A, D, E, B6, B12, folate, thiamin, riboflavin and choline. In addition to that, eggs also contain a healthy amount of calcium, sodium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, selenium, and to a lesser extent, iron and zinc. On their own, eggs contain enough nutrients to supply almost all the daily nutritional needs for a grown adult.
But on the 13th of August 2010, Wright County Egg, distributor to companies in California, Illinois, Missouri, Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, recalled all the eggs that they have shipped out since the middle of May. This recall came after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) became concerned with an unusually large number of salmonella-related cases between June and July. Together with the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and several independent bodies, the CDC started a traceback investigation into the outbreak and announced their results.
The U.S Department of Agriculture identifies salmonella as bacteria that causes diarrheal diseases in humans. Salmonella bacteria spread primarily through fecal cross-contamination between humans and animals. Infected people usually experience diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever within eight to 72 hours after coming into contact with contaminated food.
To greatly reduce the chance of an infection, consumers should always check the eggs for cracks and dirt before buying them. Recently cracked eggs should be thrown out or used immediately to prevent bacteria from accumulating in it. Commercial eggs have a shelf life of about 30 days and most cartons have an expiry date printed on it. While it may still be safe to eat the eggs several days after the expiry date, it would advisable to finish them before that time.
Once hatched, the inside of an egg is protected by the white film under the shell and most eggs are considered to be bacteria-free after proper sanitization procedures. However, is was recently discovered that one in 20000 eggs could potentially contain traces of salmonella resulting from an infected hen. However, the chance of eating an infected egg is so remote, it was estimated that the average consumer might come into contact with it once every 84 years.
Safety Tips for Eggs
In order to keep bacteria growth to a minimum, raw eggs have to be refrigerated below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. It is better to place egg cartons at the rear of the fridge where the temperature is more stable instead of the refrigerator door. Temperature fluctuations whenever the refrigerator door is opened could encourage bacteria growth. While regular eggs can be refrigerated for up to three to five weeks, liquid egg products like egg white or egg yolk boxes have to be used within two to six days after they are opened.
Elderly people, young children and anyone with a weak immune system should avoid eating raw eggs as they have an increased risk of salmonella infection. Although sunny-side up and soft-boiled are delicious ways to eat eggs, leaving the yolk half-cooked also leaves bacteria present in the yolk. Cooking the egg until it is firm is a sure way killing off the bacteria in the egg.
Buying pasteurized eggs is another way to prevent infections. The pasteurization process works by heating the eggs to 140 degrees Fahrenheit to kill off any bacteria present in the egg. As the egg white and egg yolk do not start to coagulate until they reach a temperature of 145 degrees, this pasteurization process has to be extremely precise. Because of this, pasteurized eggs are usually more expensive than regular eggs.
But as long as the necessary precautions are taken, eggs are very safe to eat, very nutritious for the body and very delicious.