Salmonella in Eggs: An Unwelcome Summer VisitorSummer is the perfect season for Salmonella, a germ that commonly causes foodborne illness--sometimes called food poisoning. Warm weather and unrefrigerated eggs or food made from raw or undercooked eggs create ideal conditions for Salmonella to grow. Many germs grow to high numbers in just a few hours at room temperature.
Although anyone can get Salmonella food poisoning, older adults, infants, and people with weakened immune systems are at increased risk for serious illness. A person infected with Salmonella usually has a fever, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea beginning 12 to 72 hours after consuming a contaminated food or beverage. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without antibiotic treatment. But, in rare cases, people become seriously ill.
In the United States, Salmonella infection causes more hospitalizations and deaths than any other germ found in food, resulting in $365 million in direct medical costs annually.
Salmonella can be sneakyYou can get Salmonella from perfectly normal-looking eggs. Salmonella can live on both the outside and inside of eggs that appear to be normal. Chicken feces on the outside of egg shells used to be a common cause of Salmonella contamination. To counter that, regulators in the 1970s put strict procedures into place for cleaning and inspecting eggs. Now, Salmonella is sometimes found on the inside of eggs; it gets there as the egg is forming.
Good news for egg loversProfessionals from public health, government, and the food industry are continually working to reduce the risks of Salmonella in eggs. Here are just a few contributions made thus far:
- CDC researchers found a significant decrease in Salmonella outbreaks associated with eggs.
- In a recent MMWR report that tracked foodborne disease outbreaks reported to CDC from 1998-2008, the authors noted a significant drop in the percentage of Salmonella outbreaks attributed to eggs.
- Regulators and food industry stakeholders partnered to improve food safety.
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) enacted the Egg Rule in 2010 to improve egg safety on egg farms by reducing infections with a type of Salmonella (called serotype Enteritidis) that is transmitted commonly by eggs; they also established safe handling and labeling requirements for shell eggs.
Be proactive. Reduce your risk.
Salmonella can contaminate more than poultry and eggs. It sneaks its way into many foods—ground beef, pork, tomatoes, sprouts—even peanut butter. Here are six tips to make eggs and other foods safer to eat.
Did You Know?
Eating raw or undercooked eggs can be especially dangerous for young children, pregnant women, older adults, and those with weakened immune systems.
- Like other perishable foods, keep eggs refrigerated at or below 40° F (4° C) at all times. Buy eggs only from stores or other suppliers that keep them refrigerated.
- Discard cracked or dirty eggs.
- Do not keep eggs or other foods warm or at room temperature for more than two hours.
- Refrigerate unused or leftover foods promptly.
- Avoid restaurant dishes made with raw or lightly cooked unpasteurized eggs. Although restaurants should use pasteurized eggs in any recipe containing raw or lightly cooked eggs --such as Hollandaise sauce or Caesar salad dressing—ask to be sure.
- Consider buying and using shell eggs and egg products that are pasteurized. These are available for purchase from certain stores and suppliers.
More InformationFor more information about Salmonella, foodborne illness, and food safety, call 1-800-CDC-INFO, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit these web sites:
- MMWR report that tracked foodborne disease outbreaks reported to CDC from 1998-2008
- Tips to Reduce Your Risk of Salmonella from Eggs (feature)
- Tips to Reduce Your Risk of Salmonella from Eggs [PODCAST - 4:00 minutes]
- CDC Outbreak Investigation of Salmonella Enteritidis
- CDC website: Salmonella
- CDC FAQs: Salmonella serotype Enteritidis
- FoodSafety.gov: Eggs and Egg Products
- Playing it Safe With Eggs: What Consumers Need to Know
- CDC Vital Signs - Making Food Safer to Eat
- Vital Signs: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)
- Estimates of Foodborne Illness in the U.S.
- Foodborne Outbreak Online Database
- Medscape commentary – Savvy about Salmonella?
- Medscape commentaries – Food Safety