Food Safety: Safe Egg Handling Tips
Eggs are a nutritious and an economical food choice and can be part of a healthy diet. Eggs and egg dishes are often served during the holidays and at parties. It is important that you follow food safety recommendations, when handling and preparing fresh eggs to keep you and your family safe from illness.
I recently became aware of people washing raw eggs in the shell prior to cooking, to prevent a foodborne illness. There are many reasons why people wash eggs in the shell. These reasons include things such as to remove visible dirt and debris, rid the egg of germs and bacteria, out of habit or because a family member has always done it. This practice is not recommended.
“This practice is not recommended, and it is the wrong thing to do, according to the research.”
Fresh eggs, even those with clean, un-cracked shells, may contain bacteria called Salmonella that can cause foodborne illness, often called food poisoning. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that 79,000 cases of foodborne illness and 30 deaths each year are caused by eating eggs contaminated with Salmonella.
The FDA has put in place regulations to help prevent contamination of eggs on the farm and during shipping and storage, but consumers also play a key role in preventing illness linked to eggs. https://www.fda.gov/food/buy-store-serve-safe-food/what-you-need-know-about-egg-safety
“To prevent food poisoning, keep eggs refrigerated, cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook foods containing eggs thoroughly. Handle eggs safely in your home.”
Protect yourself, your family and/or your guests by following these safe handling tips when buying, storing, preparing, and serving eggs or foods that contain eggs.
Do not wash eggs from the grocery store before putting them in your refrigerator. Place the carton of eggs directly into the refrigerator. Washing is a routine part of commercial egg processing and the eggs do not need to be washed again. Egg terminology: “Bloom,” the natural coating on just-laid eggs that helps prevent bacteria from permeating the shell, and is removed by the commercial washing process. It is replaced by a light coating of edible mineral oil, which restores protection for long-term home storage of eggs. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/food-safety-basics/washing-food-does-it-promote-food
“Extra handling of the eggs in your home, such as washing them, could increase the risk of cross-contamination, especially if the shell becomes cracked.”
The inside of eggs that appear normal can contain Salmonella that can make you sick, especially if you eat raw or lightly cooked eggs. Eggs are safe when you cook and handle them properly. Live poultry can carry bacteria such as Salmonella, which can contaminate the inside of eggs before the shells are formed. Egg shells may become contaminated with Salmonella from live poultry droppings or the area where the eggs were laid.
- Make sure that foods that contain raw or lightly cooked eggs, such as hollandaise sauce, Caesar salad dressing, and tiramisu, are made only with pasteurized eggs.
- Do not taste or eat any raw dough or batter such as cookie dough and cake mix, made with raw eggs. It is tempting to lick the spoon or the beaters with batter on them, but do not do this. Bake or cook raw dough and batter before eating.
- Wash hands and items that encountered raw eggs, including countertops, utensils, dishes, and cutting boards, with soap and water.
- Packaging materials from raw eggs, meat, or poultry also can cause cross-contamination. Never reuse them with other food items. These and other disposable packaging materials, such as egg cartons, foam meat trays, or plastic wraps, should be discarded immediately after you have removed their contents. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/food-safety-basics/washing-food-does-it-promote-food
You can help keep eggs safe by making wise buying decisions at the grocery store. Peek inside the carton! Discard cracked or dirty eggs. If the egg carton is dirty, select a clean carton. Consider buying and using pasteurized eggs and egg products, which are commonly available. Buy eggs only if sold from a refrigerator or refrigerated case.
Store eggs promptly in a clean refrigerator at a temperature of 40° F or below. Store eggs in their original carton and use them within 3 weeks for best quality. Proper storage of eggs can affect both quality and safety. https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep-food-safe/foodkeeper-app
Handwashing and contact surfaces
Wash hands and items that came into contact with raw eggs, including counter tops, utensils, dishes, and cutting boards with soap and water before and after they come in contact with raw eggs or raw egg containing foods. Wash hands immediately after handling raw meat and poultry. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend you wet your hands with water, lather with soap and then scrub your hands for 20 seconds. Hand washing after handling raw eggs, meat or poultry or its packaging is a necessity because anything you touch afterwards could become contaminated. https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/index.html
Cook eggs until both the yolk and white are firm. Egg dishes should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C) or hotter. Cook eggs until both the yolk and the white are firm. Scrambled eggs should not be runny. Casseroles and other dishes containing eggs should be cooked to 160° F. Always use a food thermometer to be sure. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/food-safety-basics/safe-temperature-chart
“Using a food thermometer is the only sure way of knowing if your food has reached a high enough temperature to destroy germs, including foodborne illness-causing bacteria, such as Salmonella.”
Follow these serving guidelines for eggs and egg dishes. Serve cooked eggs (such as hard-boiled eggs and fried eggs) and egg-containing foods (such as such as quiches and soufflés) immediately after cooking. Cooked eggs and egg dishes may be refrigerated for serving later but should be thoroughly reheated to 165° F before serving. Never leave cooked eggs or egg dishes out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours or for more than 1 hour when temperatures are above 90° F. Bacteria that can cause illness grow quickly at warm temperatures (between 40° F and 140° F). Keep cold egg dishes or items such as deviled eggs on ice, if they are going to stay out for up to 2 hours. https://www.fightbac.org/food-safety-basics/the-core-four-practices/
Storage of cooked egg dishes
Eat or refrigerate eggs and foods containing eggs promptly after cooking. Do not keep eggs or foods made with eggs warm or at room temperature for more than 2 hours, or 1 hour if the temperature is 90°F or hotter. Refrigerate leftover cooked egg dishes and use within 3 to 4 days. When refrigerating a large amount of a hot egg-containing leftover, divide it into several shallow containers so it will cool quickly. Use hard-cooked eggs (in the shell or peeled) within 1 week after cooking. Use frozen eggs within 1 year. Eggs should not be frozen in their shells. https://www.fda.gov/food/buy-store-serve-safe-food/what-you-need-know-about-egg-safety
Transporting eggs and egg dishes
For picnics and parties, pack cooked eggs and egg dishes in an insulated cooler with enough ice or frozen gel packs to keep them cold. Transport the cooler in the passenger compartment of the vehicle, not in the much warmer trunk. At the picnic or party area, put the cooler in the shade if possible and keep the lid closed as much as you can. For school or work, pack cooked eggs with a small frozen gel pack or a frozen juice box. https://www.fightbac.org/food-safety-basics/the-core-four-practices/
Clean surfaces and Prevent Cross-contamination
Thoroughly clean and then sanitize any surface that has potentially touched or been contaminated by raw eggs, including the inner sink. To prevent this cross-contamination, clean sinks and countertops with hot soapy water and then apply a commercial or homemade sanitizer or disinfectant whenever they come in contact with any raw egg.
“For your protection, you should sanitize utensils and disinfect surfaces with solutions that can eliminate illness-causing germs. If using commercial sanitizers or disinfectants in your kitchen, choose ones that are approved for your kitchen surfaces and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to use each product safely and effectively.”
For More Information
UF/IFAS Extension, Food Safety- https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_food_safety
The Partnership for Food Safety Education/Fight Bac– https://www.fightbac.org/
Washing food: Does it promote food safety? https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/food-safety-basics/washing-food-does-it-promote-food
Egg products and food handling- https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/eggs
CDC/Foodborne germs and illnesses- https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/foodborne-germs.html