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Ten tips to protect your family from tainted eggs

August 23, 2010
CHI Health

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Ten tips to protect your family from tainted eggs

Although most of us aren’t planning to choke back a raw egg, Rocky-style, anytime soon, families can’t help but be concerned about the massive egg recall happening across the country. So far, a couple of farms run by a company in Iowa have recalled approximately 550 million eggs sold to wholesalers and retailers in 18 states, including Nebraska and Iowa (the FDA warns there could be more). The eggs have been linked to eight cases of salmonella in Nebraska and more than 1,000 cases in at least five other states.

So what’s a parent to do?
Have a picky eater that will ONLY eat his eggs sunny-side-up? Getting ready to make a birthday cake, but don’t want to be anywhere near raw eggs right now? There are a lot of chance encounters with uncooked eggs that we should be wary of, but it’s no reason to avoid eggs and the foods we love altogether. There are lots of things you can do to keep your family safe year-round. Here are ten tips to get you started:

  1. Check to see if your eggs are affected by the egg recall. The recall only affects about one percent of the 80 billion eggs produced each year in the U.S. Chances are, the eggs in your fridge are perfectly safe. Just in case, however, the Egg Safety Center has a list of every affected egg as well as an explanation to help you determine if your eggs are safe or not.
  2. Avoid eating any raw eggs. Your best bet is to avoid eating any raw, unpasteurized eggs year-round and not just during this recall. However, from Caesar dressing to Hollandaise sauce and aoli, raw eggs pop up in our recipes in more places than you’d probably guess. Restaurants should opt for pasteurized eggs in these recipes. But if you’re not sure if your favorite menu items are safe, just ask.
  3. Avoid eating undercooked eggs. Eggs should be cooked until both the white and yolk are firm. That means you’ll probably have to pass on the good ol’ sunny-side-up egg during the recall.
  4. Keep unused eggs refrigerated. This may sound like a no-brainer, but anyone who has ever tried to cook while multi-tasking (corralling kids, picking up the house, etc.) knows just how quickly time can get away from you – all the while bacteria is growing inside those unrefrigerated eggs. Remember, if you leave eggs out longer than two hours, it’s time to toss ‘em.
  5. Refrigerate any unused or leftover eggs (or egg-containing foods) promptly. You might prefer to sit back and relax after that delicious quiche dinner – but bacteria can grow quickly. It’s safest to refrigerate these kinds of foods while they’re still warm.
  6. Discard unused eggs in a timely fashion. Raw eggs maintain their freshness for about four to five weeks after you buy them, if you keep them refrigerated properly. A hard-boiled egg, on the other hand, will only be safe for about a week in the fridge.
  7. Discard any cracked or dirty eggs. Put simply, one of the ways salmonella can invade an egg is when the shell touches fecal matter from an infected human or animal – including the chickens themselves. So don’t just wash that smudge off the side of the egg – your best bet is to throw the whole egg away.
  8. Wash anything that comes in contact with raw eggs promptly. If there is any trace of bacteria inside an egg, it can easily transfer on to cooking utensils, food preparation surfaces – even your hands or other food. For an extra level of security, keep all kitchen surfaces as clear as possible while working with raw eggs. This should help limit any accidental contamination.
  9. Keep raw egg separate from other foods. Bacteria are typically spread through the kitchen via cross-contamination. Just like with raw meat or seafood, keep eggs separate from ready-to-eat foods all the way from the grocery cart, to the grocery bags and in to your refrigerator.
  10. Know the signs and symptoms of salmonella. If you’ve been infected by salmonella, you may experience a range of symptoms. These include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, chills, headache, muscle pains and blood in the stool.

**Remember, in and of itself, salmonella is not typically life-threatening. But dangerous complications can – and do – develop in children, older adults or anyone with a weakened immune system. So if you or a loved one falls into one of these categories – make sure you are extra cautious and contact a doctor if you notice symptoms that last for more than a few days or if they include bloody stools or a high fever.

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