Salmonella In Eggs: An Unwelcome Summer Visitor

From the Harnett County Department of Public Health

Eggs and summer go together — deviled eggs, homemade ice cream and potato salad. Summer 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 unrefrigerated eggs, create ideal conditions for Salmonella to grow, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and public health officials with the Harnett County Health Department.

Foodborne illnesses tend to increase during the warmer months, because bacteria multiply faster in warm, summer months, especially at temperatures between 90 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Foods that contain raw or lightly- cooked eggs such as ice cream, eggnog or soft-boiled eggs, are risky and should be avoided. Eating raw or undercooked eggs can be especially dangerous for young children, pregnant women, older adults and those with weakened immune systems, although everyone is at risk for food poisoning.

Cooking reduces the number of bacteria present in an egg. Eggs should be thoroughly cooked until both the yolk and white are firm. Recipes containing eggs mixed with other foods should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a food thermometer to be sure.

Eat eggs promptly after cooking. Do not keep eggs warm or at room temperature for more than two hours, (one hour in temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit). Discard foods that have been left at room temperature longer than two hours (one hour in temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit). Holding food at an unsafe temperature is a prime cause of foodborne illness.

Each year, homemade ice cream made with raw eggs is often linked to salmonella infections. Public health officials recommend the use of pasteurized eggs which should be substituted in recipes that call for uncooked eggs.

Even if you are using pasteurized eggs for your ice cream, both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommend starting with a cooked egg base for optimal safety. Cook the mixture gently to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring constantly. The cooking will destroy Salmonella, if present. Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of the mixture.

Resist the temptation to tastetest it during preparation, because if the custard is not fully cooked it could still contain salmonella. After cooking, chill the custard thoroughly before freezing.

When eating outdoors in the summer, either in the backyard or on a picnic, follow these guidelines: Always keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Refrigerate unused or leftover foods promptly. Don’t let food sit out for more than two hours, on a hot day (90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher), reduce this time to one hour. Avoid dishes made with raw or lightlycooked unpasteurized eggs.

For more information, log onto the Harnett County Health Department’s website located at www.harnett.org/health or call the Health Department at (910) 893-7550.

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