Food Safety, Preparation and Storage Tips
Cooperative Extension, College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, the University of Arizona

Facts about Eggs and Food Safety

A potential food safety concern with eggs is Salmonella bacteria. Eggs are perishable and must be handled with care. One can not tell if an egg contains salmonella bacteria just by looking at it because it has been found inside even clean, unbroken eggs. Avoid eating undercooked eggs or food dishes containing raw eggs and remember thorough cooking kills Salmonella bacteria.

Although the risk of getting sick from salmonella is relatively small, the infection can be dangerous, especially for the very young, the elderly and those weakened by illness. Do not leave eggs and foods that contain eggs at room temperature for more than two hours, because rapid bacterial growth can occur.

Eggs should always be kept cold to prevent bacterial growth. After buying them, refrigerate as soon as possible. Be sure to store the eggs in the carton in the main part of the refrigerator. It is not a good idea to store raw eggs in the door of the refrigerator. Use whole raw eggs within three to five weeks. Use leftover yolks or whites within four days. To freeze whole eggs, beat yolk and whites together. Egg whites can be frozen alone. Use frozen eggs within one year. Unopened cartons of egg substitute can be kept for one year.

Foods which are lightly cooked such as custards or french toast are not safe if an infected egg was used. Avoid foods made with raw, uncooked eggs like Caesar salad, homemade mayonnaise, Hollandaise sauce, homemade eggnog, homemade ice cream, and raw cookie dough. These foods can be safely prepared by substituting frozen, pasteurized eggs for fresh whole eggs or made with recipes where the eggs are cooked to 160° F. Meringue-topped pies should be baked at 350° F for 15 minutes. For egg dishes such as quiche and casseroles, insert a knife in the center. It should come out clean. Pasteurized eggs are packaged in containers that resemble a small milk carton and are available in some supermarkets in either the frozen food section or refrigerator case.

Eggs-even organic eggs-should be cooked until the white and the yolk are firm, not runny. Hard-boiled, firm-fried, and scrambled eggs are safe. Sunny-side up, soft cooked, and over easy eggs are not recommended. An older egg if fried is flat and runs all over the skillet. It is safe to eat if it is cooked thoroughly.

Questions often arise regarding Easter eggs. Easter eggs that are used in baskets or for egg hunts are safe to eat if they have not been kept outside the refrigerator for more than 2 hours. Eggs that are kept at room temperature more than 2 hours lose moisture and quality as well as being susceptible to bacterial growth. Hard cooked eggs can be safely stored in the refrigerator for 7 to 10 days.

Prepare eggs and egg dishes properly to prevent food safety concerns. Do not use eggs with cracked shells. When preparing foods that contain eggs, wash hands, utensils, and work surfaces that come in contact with the raw eggs.

Remember, thoroughly cook any food that contains raw eggs and avoid those foods that have undercooked eggs in them. When eggs are handled safely, they are a safe and nutritious food.

Other egg-type items like freeze-dried products, imitation egg products, and egg substitues are not presently considered egg products. However, pasteurized eggs are used to make these items. No-cholesterol egg substitutes are made with egg whites, artificial colors and non-egg additives. For For questions about these products, call the manufactuer listed on the label or FDA. Dried egg mix is a government commodity and is not available in the grocery store. It is available commercially and when reconstituted must be refrigerated and used within 7 to 10 days.

Resources:

  • United States Department of Agriculture, Home and Garden Bulletin #264. 1995. How to Buy Eggs.
  • US Food and Drug Administration, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, 1992. Food-borne Pathogenic Microorganisms and Natural Toxins Handbook. Salmonella spp-Guidelines for Cooking Eggs. http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~mow/chap1.html
  • Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA, Food Safety Publication. Egg and Egg Product Safety. 1996. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OA/pubs/eggs.pdf
  • American Egg Board. Publication E-0051.1995. Salmonella & Egg Safety.
  • Egg Nutrition Center 202-833-8850 or http://www.enc-online.org
  • USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline
    1-800-535-4555

Material written by Mary Abgrall and Scottie Misner, June 1998.
Part of Food Safety Tips, College of Agriculture, The University of Arizona
Document located at http://ag.arizona.edu/pubs/health/foodsafety/az1077.html
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