As an Australian household staple, eggs are an important source of nutrition for the vast majority of people. While egg farmers supply a safe, clean, fresh product, it is possible for eggs to become contaminated by the food poisoning bacteria Salmonella.
The good news is Salmonella is killed instantly at 74oC. So even if you are unlucky enough to get an egg with bacteria on it, the food will become safe by cooking it properly.
In the same way that people know not to eat raw chicken or leave milk out on the bench all day, there are a few simple steps to protect against possible egg-related food poisoning.
TIPS FOR EGG EATERS
RAW EGG DISHES
Uncooked dishes, sauces and dressings that contain raw or lightly cooked eggs are more susceptible to Salmonella bacteria. This includes:
Some desserts such as mousses and tiramisu
Sauces and dressings like hollandaise, fresh mayonnaise and aioli
Drinks containing raw egg such as egg nog and protein shakes with added raw egg white
There are other foods containing raw eggs to be aware of, like uncooked pasta dough or cake batter that people might eat as they’re making the cooked version.
IS IT OK TO EAT RAW EGGS?
It’s safe to eat things containing raw or lightly cooked eggs providing the risks are understood and appropriate care and attention is given. Most importantly, prepare raw egg foods just before you are going to consume them and if you need to store the dish, refrigerate it immediately at 5°C or below so bacteria cannot grow.
For homemade mayonnaise and aioli, only make small amounts at a time and be sure to use enough vinegar or lemon juice as the acidification makes the product safer. A pH of less than 4.2 should stop any bacteria growth, including Salmonella.
If you’re making a dessert like tiramisu, don’t separate the eggs using the shell halves. This method is fine for things that get cooked but for an uncooked dessert containing raw eggs, it is safest to use an egg separator.
CHILDREN, ELDERLY PEOPLE AND PREGNANT WOMEN
Foods that contain raw eggs as an ingredient, that aren’t going to be cooked before being eaten, should not be served to vulnerable people. This includes young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems.
Eggs are absolutely safe for vulnerable people to eat if they are cooked and handled properly. In fact, as a highly nutritious and affordable source of protein, eggs should be included in people’s diets. But cook them properly so the yolk has started to thicken in poached or boiled eggs or the beaten egg mixture has set properly in omelets or scrambled eggs.
KEEPING AND STORING EGG PRODUCTS
Storage time is an important consideration as it takes time for bacteria load to grow to a point where food poisoning becomes a risk. This table below shows safe storage time for a number of common egg products.
|Cooked eggs or egg products left out of refrigeration for less than 2 hours||Refrigerate and/or use immediately
|Cooked eggs or egg products left out of refrigeration for 2-4 hours||Use immediately|
|Cooked eggs or egg products left out of refrigeration for more than 4 hours||Must be thrown out|
|Prepared food containing raw/low-cooked egg whites (e.g. protein smoothie)||Maximum 24 hours storage at refrigerated temperature (under 5oC)|
|Prepared food containing raw/low-cooked eggs yolks (e.g. mayonnaise, aioli)||Maximum 24 hours at refrigerated temperature (under 5oC)|
|Hard-boiled eggs||Hard-boiled eggs should be refrigerated within 2 hours of cooking and used within 7 days|
|Powdered egg||Powdered egg should be stored in a dry, cool area. Once reconstituted it must be refrigerated and then used that day.|
|Leftover meals containing eggs||Egg-containing leftovers (e.g. Pad Thai or Spaghetti Carbonara) refrigerated and eaten within 3 days|
|Quiche or frittata||Refrigerate for no more than 3 days|
Many egg products can be frozen, defrosted and eaten but it’s important to know that the freezing process won’t kill Salmonella if the food is already contaminated. It’s therefore important to know the state of the food at the point that it goes into the freezer.
If you cook a frittata or fried rice with egg in it and freeze the leftovers the same day, it will be safe to defrost 2-3 months later, reheat to at least 60oC, and eat. But if you freeze a five-day old serve of fried rice that has already started to grow bacteria, freezing it will not make it safe to eat at a later date.
Leftover egg whites can be easily frozen and thawed out for use at a later date. But as with leftover food, only freeze egg whites that are within their use by date.