The egg has a long history as a symbol for the arrival of spring. Decorating eggs for Easter is a tradition that dates back to the 13th century and in fact, decorating eggs pre-dates Christianity. In many cultures and religions, the egg is a symbol of new life, fertility and rebirth.
However, tradition and celebration aside, eating eggs that are not handled with proper care can cause food poisoning. Salmonella, an organism that causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, and fever, can be found on both the outside and the inside of eggs that look perfectly normal. In otherwise healthy people, the symptoms generally last a couple of days and taper off within a week. But Salmonella can cause severe illness and even death in at-risk individuals, such as pregnant women, young children, older adults and persons with weakened immune systems.
The FDA offers the following tips for egg food safety:
Refrigerate Eggs Promptly
- Buy eggs only from stores that keep them refrigerated.
- At home, store eggs in their original carton and keep them refrigerated at 40 degrees.
- Promptly refrigerate unused eggs or leftovers that contain eggs.
- Wash hands and all food contact surface areas (e.g., counter tops, utensils, dishes, and cutting boards) with soap and water after contact with raw eggs.
- Discard cracked or dirty eggs.
Cook Eggs Thoroughly
- Eggs should be thoroughly cooked until both the yolk and white are firm and not runny. Recipes containing eggs mixed with other foods should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees.
- Eat eggs promptly after cooking; Cooked eggs, including hard-boiled eggs and egg-containing foods, should not sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
- For recipes that call for eggs that are raw or undercooked when the dish is served (like homemade Caesar salad dressing or ice cream) use either eggs that have been treated to destroy Salmonella, by pasteurization or another approved method, or pasteurized egg products.
For more tips on egg and food safety, visit the FDA website or call the FDA Food Information Line at 1-888-SAFEFOOD.