Egg Recall: Frequently Asked Questions
Huge Salmonella Outbreak Traced to Recalled Eggs: What You Should Know
How do eggs get contaminated with salmonella?
It once was thought that salmonella on the surface of eggs penetrated the shell and infected the egg contents. That's possible, so it's a good idea to wash your hands after touching eggs. But it's now becoming clear that a hen infected with salmonella can carry the bacteria in its ovaries and oviducts. The eggs become infected with salmonella as they are forming, and carry the bacteria inside their shells.
Interestingly, the site of contamination is usually -- but not always -- the egg white.
Not every hen at the same farm carries salmonella, and not every egg laid by an infected hen carries the bug.
Hens get salmonella mainly from germs carried by flies and from eating the excrement of rodents that get into their feed. New FDA regulations -- which ironically went into effect on July 9, well after the current salmonella outbreak began -- are expected to cut the number of salmonella-carrying eggs by 60%.
Meanwhile, thorough cooking kills salmonella. Cooking an egg until both the egg white and egg yolk are solid will kill salmonella in the egg.
What are the symptoms of Salmonella Enteritidis infection?
About 12 to 72 hours after eating a contaminated egg, an infected person usually has fever, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea.
Infants, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems may get very severe diarrhea and require hospitalization.
How is Salmonella Enteritidis treated?
Fortunately, most cases of SE get better without any treatment other than drinking fluids to replace those lost to diarrhea.
More severe diarrhea will require fluid and electrolyte replacement.
Antibiotics usually are not used except for very severe disease, or for high-risk patients. In fact, antibiotics can actually prolong salmonella duration.
What can I do to avoid salmonella illness from eggs?
Here's the CDC's advice:
- Don’t eat recalled eggs or products containing recalled eggs. Recalled eggs might still be in grocery stores, restaurants, and homes. Consumers who have recalled eggs should discard them or return them to their retailer for a refund.
- People who think they might have become ill from eating recalled eggs should consult their health care providers.
- Keep eggs refrigerated at least to 45 degrees F at all times.
- Discard cracked or dirty eggs.
- Wash hands, cooking utensils, and food preparation surfaces with soap and water after contact with raw eggs.
- Eggs should be cooked until both the white and the yolk are firm and eaten promptly after cooking.
- Do not keep eggs warm or at room temperature for more than two hours.
- Refrigerate unused or leftover egg-containing foods promptly.
- Avoid eating raw eggs.
- Avoid restaurant dishes made with raw or undercooked, unpasteurized eggs. Restaurants should use pasteurized eggs in any recipe (such as Hollandaise sauce or Caesar salad dressing) that calls for raw eggs.
- Consumption of raw or undercooked eggs should be avoided, especially by young children, elderly people, and people with weakened immune systems or debilitating illness.