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March 27, 2013

Handle eggs with care to avoid foodborne illness

Ada —  

For those who recognize Easter and Passover, eggs are often a big part of the celebration. However, their fragile shells are not the only reason eggs should be handled with care.

Mishandling eggs could increase the risk of foodborne illness, and specifically salmonella, said Barbara Brown, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension food specialist.

“Salmonella can be on the outside and the inside of eggs that otherwise appear to be fine,” she said.

In healthy people, salmonella can produce nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps and fever that last a few days. In special populations such as pregnant women, younger kids and older adults, the reaction can be much more severe.

A couple main rules of thumb are to only purchase refrigerated eggs and transfer them to your own refrigerator as soon as you get back home, where they should be stored in their original container.

“Toss out any dirty, cracked or broken eggs and use the good ones within three weeks to ensure freshness,” Brown said.

Because both the shell and the inside of the egg can be contaminated, she said it is important to thoroughly wash your hands, as well as all surfaces and utensils with soap and water before and after contact with raw eggs and foods containing eggs.

“Cook eggs until the yolks and whites are firm,” Brown said. “Dishes with eggs should be cooked to 160 F, while dishes such as quiche need to be reheated to 165 F before they are served. Use a food thermometer for accuracy.”

For dishes that include raw or undercooked eggs, rely on pasteurized eggs and egg products.

“Keep your hot foods hot at 140 F or higher and your cold foods cold at 40 F or lower as you are serving them,” Brown said. “If any dish sits out at room temperature for more than two hours, discard it to avoid exposure to foodborne illness.”

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