Salmonella and Eggs - Tips to Prevent Food Poisoning

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Effects of Salmonella Poisoning

Salmonella enteritidis is bacteria that is found in raw eggs or undercooked foods that can cause salmonella poisoning to the people that have ingested it. The symptoms of salmonella poisoning normally consist of a fever, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea starting at about 12-72 hours after eating the contaminated food. The symptoms can last up to 4-7 days depending on the person and the severity. Most people are able to recover from salmonella poisoning with certain antibiotic treatments, but some can be hospitalized if symptoms worsen.

Although salmonella is fairly common and normally easily to treat, the elderly, small children and people with certain underlying diseases (weak immune systems) tend to have more severe symptoms, which can spread from their intestines to bloodstream. These terms can be fatal if not treated right away.

According to The Egg Safety Center, 1 in every 20,000 eggs can contain salmonella on the egg shell or inside the egg. Normally, eggs that are stored and prepared correctly - keeping them refrigerated and making sure they’re thoroughly cooked - and then eaten right away will not result in salmonella poisoning. Eggs that are not kept refrigerated, are kept for too long or are not cooked properly, are the ones that can cause illness to people when eaten. As long as the egg is not eaten raw, the chances of a person contracting salmonella are very slim.

Cooking Eggs to Stop Contamination

Now that we understand the issues that may arise when a person comes into contact with the bacteria, we have to understand how it is contracted. Salmonella can be found in raw eggs. Most people cook their eggs but sometimes they’re not cooked enough or are left out of the fridge for a long period of time, which can cause the bacteria to grow. Other people like to dip their fingers into a bowl of brownie batter that has raw egg in it and end up finding themselves with strong sudden stomach pains.

So what can you do to prevent yourself from getting sick by eating eggs? The bad thing is that salmonella can still lurk in certain eggs even after they are cooked; however, boiling your eggs decreases your risk of getting salmonella poisoning. Eggs should be boiled for at least 7 minutes in total to diminish any kind of contamination. Hard boiled eggs are cooked enough to get rid of any liquid left from the egg so there is no bacterium lingering.

There are of course other ways to cook your eggs that will help decrease the chance of you getting sick from salmonella. You can cook your eggs scrambled, fried, poached and even sunny side up and will still have a very low risk of getting sick. It’s raw eggs that increase your chances of getting salmonella poisoning. Since most people do not eat their eggs completely raw, this should not be an issue. Keep in mind, however, of recipes that use raw eggs and don’t require any form of cooking, such as certain protein shakes, eggnog or Caesar salad dressing.

How does salmonella enteritidis even occur in eggs in the first place? The bacterium actually affects the hens’ ovaries and infects the eggs even before the shells are created. Pretty tough stuff to be able to seep through and take over an egg the way it does. Although this is understandably concerning, as long as you take proper actions before eating an egg—such as cooking it—you should be fine. Just remember if you really are concerned about this; always try to cook your eggs so that there is no more liquid coming from them. Eggs are a great source of protein and should not be avoided because of bacteria; just be sure to take the necessary precautions!