Tips to follow for egg-cellent health

If you like your eggs sunny side up with the yolk a little runny, you’re a gambler.

Raw and undercooked eggs have been on the watch list of foods potentially contaminated with salmonella bacteria and other bad bugs that cause food poisoning for years. But this month’s nationwide recall of shell eggs suspected to be the source of a recent fourfold spike in the number of Salmonella Enteritidis infections has raised the red flag even higher.

While no cases of Salmonella Enteritidis have yet been reported in Georgia, the state is included in the recall.

“No sunny side up eggs anymore,” said noted food safety expert Missy Cody, a professor emeritus at Georgia State University, “or undercooked scrambled eggs, unless they’re made with a pasteurized egg product.” When eggs are pasteurized, they are heated to a temperature high enough to kill bacteria. So pasteurized products such as frozen and liquid eggs are safe to consume even when undercooked or used raw in making, for instance, ice cream or hollandaise sauce.

Since eggs are among the most nutritious and economical foods on the menu, here’s a half dozen tips to help you safely enjoy them:

  1. Keep eggs refrigerated at all times. "Beware of breakfast places that keep raw eggs near the hot griddle," Cody said. "The heat will make salmonella which may be in the eggs grow much faster." Do not keep eggs or egg dishes warm or at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
  2. Avoid restaurant dishes made with raw or undercooked, unpasteurized eggs. Restaurants should use pasteurized eggs in any recipe (such as hollandaise sauce, mayonnaise  or Caesar salad dressing) that may call for raw eggs.
  3. Avoid eating raw eggs. No matter how tempting, avoid licking the cake batter off the spoon! Make sure shell eggs used in baked goods or casseroles are thoroughly cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F. Meringue-topped pies and soufflés should be baked at 350 degrees F for at least 15 minutes.
  4. Sunny side up not a bright idea. Whether boiled, poached or fried, eggs should be cooked until both the white and the yolk are firm and eaten promptly after cooking. Undercooked egg whites and yolks have been associated with outbreaks of Salmonella Enteritidis infections.
  5. You can't judge a "good egg." Contaminated eggs will not smell, look or taste any different from normal eggs. Always discard cracked or dirty eggs.
  6. Some are at higher risk for food poisoning. Eating raw or undercooked eggs should be avoided by young children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems due to serious illness. Good timing! September is the National Restaurant Association's National Food Safety Education Month. The 2010 theme is "High Risk Customers: Serve Your Fare with Extra Care."

Sources: and .