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Eggs can be a part of a healthy diet; however, they are perishable just like raw meat, poultry and fish. Some eggs may contain salmonella bacteria, which can cause food borne illness. Follow storage, handling and cooking guidelines to prevent most egg safety problems.
Don’t eat raw or undercooked eggs
This includes “health food” milk shakes with raw eggs, Caesar salad, hollandaise sauce and any other foods like homemade mayonnaise, ice cream or eggnog made from recipes in which the raw egg ingredients are not cooked.
These egg-based recipes should be updated. Consider using a cooked base, commercially prepared pasteurized eggs or egg substitutes. Use a thermometer and make sure the temperature of the cooked base is 160 degrees.
Buy clean eggs from a refrigerator display case
Do not purchase eggs anywhere that are not refrigerated. Any bacteria present in the egg can grow quickly if stored at room temperature. Do not purchase out-of-date eggs. Look for the USDA grade shield or mark. Graded eggs must meet standards for quality and size. Choose the size most useful and economical for you.
Store eggs safe at home
Take eggs straight home and store them immediately in the refrigerator at 40 degrees or lower. Store them in the grocery carton in the coldest part of the refrigerator, not in the door. Do not wash eggs. Before eggs are placed on the market, they are washed and sanitized at the plant. Then the egg is coated with a tasteless, natural mineral oil to protect it. If eggs are washed, it could increase the potential of bacteria on the shell to enter the egg.
Use eggs promptly
Use raw shell eggs within three to five weeks. When fresh eggs are hard cooked, the protective coating is washed away so hard-cooked eggs should be refrigerated within two hours of cooking and used within a week. Use leftover whites and yolks within four days.
Never buy cracked eggs
Bacteria can enter eggs through cracks in the shell; however, if eggs crack on the way home from the store, break them into a clean container, cover it tightly, keep refrigerated and use within two days. If eggs crack during hard cooking, they are safe.
Handle eggs safely
Wash hands, utensils, equipment and work areas with warm soapy water before and after contact with eggs and egg-rich foods.
Contact Dianne Gatewood, extension agent, Family and Consumer Sciences, at 253-2610 (Brunswick County) or 798-7663 (New Hanover County) if you have questions.