I’d never thought much about the potential downside of eating a soft egg on toast or a raw one cracked into a shake until relatively recently. I grew up in a household where we stored eggs on the kitchen counter, ate them with runny yolks, and were allowed as much raw cookie dough as our tummies could manage. And while the risk of salmonella, the unfriendly bacteria sometimes lurking in eggs, existed, it was less significant back when I was double dipping into the cake batter.
Now that I have kids, undercooked eggs give me pause. Of the 1.2 million cases of salmonella each year, most of the victims are children under five. Without taking care to buy, store, and cook eggs properly, sadly, one of the planet’s most nourishing foods can be the source of serious illness.
And much as we might like to think that good-quality organic eggs are beyond reproach, there’s no guarantee that they’re salmonella-free. Case in point was the large outbreak in 2009 from organic eggs and another one just last year.
Here are four food safety tips for eating eggs in your house:
- Keep them cold – Refrigerate eggs in the shell as soon as you buy them. According to the American Egg Board, they should last in the fridge for up to three weeks. Raw eggs whites will keep up to four days, raw yolks, up to two.
- Watch the cross-contamination – Take care not to contaminate other food in your kitchen with raw eggs. Scrub the counters and cooking tools thoroughly after they’ve been in contact with uncooked eggs. Clean sponges used to wipe up spills to kill potential bacteria.
- Cook them – Salmonella is destroyed through cooking. Eggs with runny yolks and whites still may carry harmful bacteria. This is especially important for pregnant women, young children, and anyone with a compromised immune system.
- Buy pasteurized eggs – When using a recipe that calls for raw or undercooked eggs, opt for ones that are pasteurized. I choose Safest Choice Eggs, which are warmed in the shell in a water bath just enough to eliminate salmonella without cooking what’s inside. This is an ideal option when you want a softly poached eggs, a classic Caesar dressing, or yes, when the kids can’t keep their fingers out of the cookie dough. You can find out where Safest Choice Eggs are sold on their website.
I’m pretty excited about these pasteurized eggs, so much so that I’ve joined the Darling Dozen, a team of Safest Choice brand ambassadors focused on eggs and food safety. Recipes coming soon!