Cook Eggs Thoroughly and Keep Refrigerated to Avoid Salmonella

LINCOLN, Neb. -- A University of Nebraska-Lincoln food safety specialist says that eggs -- like meat, poultry, milk and other foods -- are safe when handled properly.

Eggs are safe when stored in the refrigerator, thoroughly cooked and promptly consumed, said Julie Albrecht, UNL Extension food safety specialist in the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

According to federal food safety information, the larger the number of salmonella bacteria present in an egg, the more likely it is to cause illness. Keeping eggs adequately refrigerated, which is at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (the temperature your refrigerator should be at), prevents any salmonella present in the eggs from growing to higher numbers. Eggs should be kept refrigerated until they are used.

"If unsure if your refrigerator is at a safe temperature, buy a thermometer to put in your fridge," Albrecht said.

When it comes to consuming eggs, cooking reduces the number of bacteria present in an egg; however, an egg with a runny yolk still poses a greater risk than a completely cooked egg.

"When cooking eggs, the yolks should be cooked so that they are thickened and do not run," Albrecht said.

Undercooked egg whites and yolks have been associated with outbreaks of Salmonella Enteritidis infections.

Eggs should be consumed promptly and not be kept warm or at room temperature for more than two hours.

Albrecht added that eggs in the shell should only be kept in the refrigerator for three to five weeks. After that, they should be thrown out. If an egg is out of its shell, it should be tossed after two to four days.

The bacterium, Salmonella Enteritidis, can be on both the outside and inside of eggs that appear to be normal, and if the eggs are eaten raw or undercooked, the bacterium can cause illness.

Albrecht and federal food safety information also recommend these actions to reduce salmonella:

-- Keep eggs refrigerated 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 persons and persons with weakened immune systems or debilitating illness.

For more information about eggs and egg safety visit the federal government's food safety website at

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Source: Julie Albrecht, Ph.D., Professor, Nutrition and Health Sciences, (402) 472-8884,

Writer: Sandi Alswager Karstens, IANR News Service, (402) 472-3030,