Eggs and salmonella: What you need to know

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With 380 million eggs under recall, consumers may be anxious about eating any egg or food product containing eggs. Here’s the upshot: Thoroughly cooked eggs are safe, but cross-contamination could be a problem. Here’s more about the recall and food safety.

Which eggs are included in the voluntary recall?

The recall issued Aug. 13 covers eggs from Wright County Egg in Iowa packaged under the brand names Lucerne ( Safeway’s store brand), Albertsons, Mountain Dairy, Ralphs, Boomsma’s, Sunshine, Hillandale, Trafficanda, Farm Fresh, Shoreland, Lund, Dutch Farm and Kemps. The eggs come in six- to 18-egg cartons and other packaging stamped with so-called Julian or packing dates from 136 to 225 (May 16 to Aug. 13). The cartons come from plant Nos. 1026, 1413 or 1946.

The recall expansion announced Wednesday involves eggs from Wright County Egg packaged under the brand names Albertsons, Farm Fresh, James Farms, Glenview, Mountain Dairy, Ralphs, Boomsma’s, Lund, Kemps and Pacific Coast. The egg cartons are stamped with Julian dates 136 to 229 (May 16 to Aug. 17) and plant Nos. 1720 or 1942.

What should I do with eggs that are part of the recall?

Return the eggs to the store for a refund or discard them. Thoroughly cooking eggs kills salmonella bacteria. However, considering the threat of infection, consumers who prepare and eat the eggs are taking too much of a chance, said Jeff LeJeune, an associate professor at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center at Ohio State University and an expert in salmonella contamination. “It’s not worth the risk,” he said. Consumers with questions can visit or call Wright County Egg’s toll-free information line at (866) 272-5582.

Are other eggs safe?

There’s always some threat of salmonella poisoning from raw eggs.

Are all the eggs from these lots contaminated?

It’s uncertain. An infected hen can lay normal eggs and then occasionally lay an egg contaminated with salmonella. LeJeune said, “you can’t tell a contaminated egg from look, smell or taste.”

Can’t I just cook the eggs to kill the bacteria?

Yes. “Eggs if fully cooked don’t pose a threat. But the problem is a lot of people like to eat their eggs sunny side up or make hollandaise sauce,” LeJeune said. “We want to reduce the threat as much as possible.”

How can I be sure that cooked eggs are free of salmonella?

Both the egg white and egg yolk should be firm throughout and have no visible liquid remaining.

Are pasteurized eggs free from salmonella?

Pasteurized eggs are safe, LeJeune said. “I highly recommend pasteurized eggs for people at risk for severe illness from salmonella or for people who are healthy and choose to use raw eggs in ice cream or hollandaise sauce,” he said. Liquid egg products sold in cartons are also pasteurized and free from salmonella.

How do eggs become infected with salmonella?

Salmonella enteritidis can infect the ovaries of healthy-looking hens and contaminate the eggs before the shells are formed. External fecal contamination of eggshells from animals and birds is rare.

Can I get sick from handling raw eggs contaminated with salmonella?

Yes, so wash your hands with soap and water after handling raw eggs. It’s rare to develop salmonella poisoning from handling eggshells alone.

Can salmonella from raw eggs spread to other surfaces in the kitchen?

Yes. Disinfect (don’t just wipe down) all surfaces that have come into contact with raw egg.

How should I store eggs?

Eggs should be refrigerated at 45 degrees or below. If an egg is stored properly, any salmonella in that egg will be less likely to grow.

How long can food containing cooked eggs remain out of the refrigerator?

Dishes containing eggs should not be left at room temperature for more than one hour.

Sources: Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center at Ohio State University; Food and Drug Administration; American Egg Board; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention