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Foods -- Eggs

Can I get Salmonella if I eat raw or undercooked eggs?

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During the 1980s and 1990s, Salmonella serotype Enteritidis (SE) emerged as an important cause of human illness in the U.S. The rate of SE isolates reported to CDC increased from 0.6 per 100,000 population 1976 to 3.6 per 100,000 in 1996. The increase was associated with eating raw or undercooked eggs. Good news - the CDC reported that between 1996 and 1998, the rate of cases due to SE declined to 2.2 per 100,000. During 1985-1998, state and territorial health departments reported 796 SE outbreaks that accounted for 28, 689 illnesses, 2839 hospitalizations, and 79 deaths. 279 (82%) were associated with raw or undercooked shell eggs. Although required in 17 states, no federal law exists that requires an expiration or "sell-by" date on egg cartons. USDA requires that eggs be stored and transported at less than or equal to 45 F (less than or equal to 7.2 C) and that consumer containers be labeled to indicate that refrigeration is required. The FDA has a rule that requires that eggs sold at retail stores be refrigerated at less than or equal to 45 F. The education of consumers and foodservice workers to store, handle and cook eggs appropriately can prevent any SE infections in humans. FDA's Food Code for retail food stores, foodservice establishments, nursing home, and day care centers recommends that pasteurized eggs be substituted for raw eggs in preparing foods such as Caesar salad, hollandaise sauce, ice cream, and egg-fortified beverages that are not cooked.

PREPARED BY: Angela M. Fraser, Ph.D., Associate Professor/Food Safety Specialist, NC State University in July 2004

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