Food safety is as important with eggs as it is with chicken, meat, seafood and dairy products. There can be health risks if eggs are not handled, stored and prepared safely.
Some eggs may be contaminated with bacteria, which can cause serious food poisoning (diarrhoea and vomiting). Food poisoning is a miserable and potentially dangerous experience. Many people attribute its symptoms to a simple tummy upset.
But for certain people such as children, pregnant women and the elderly we need to be very careful when preparing food because they are more vulnerable to food poisoning bacteria.
Be careful with raw eggs and avoid food containing raw eggs including homemade mayonnaise, raw cake mix and biscuit dough and milkshakes.
To enjoy eggs safely, buy clean, uncracked eggs that are within their best before date, store them in the fridge in their carton and cook until hot all the way through.
If you follow these basic food safety tips, you can significantly reduce the chances of you or your family becoming ill from bacteria in or on eggs.
- Open the carton and check the eggs look clean and are not cracked before purchasing.
- Don't buy self-serve eggs (where you select individual eggs from a bulk display). You won't know where the eggs are from, how they have been stored and handled, or their best before date.
- Consider that larger eggs have thinner shells and are more likely to crack and let in bacteria.
- If you find a dirty or cracked egg, throw it out.
- Don't wash eggs as the shell becomes more porous when wet, making it easier for bacteria to get in.
The best way to store eggs is to keep them in their own carton in the fridge:
- The best before date on the carton assumes you are storing your eggs in the fridge. If you do not store your eggs in the fridge, you will need to use them much sooner than the best before date on the carton.
- Eggs are best stored in their egg cartons with the pointed end facing downwards. This keeps the egg yolk centred and prevents damage to the egg cell. The carton protects the egg shells from damage.
- Egg shells are porous and can become tainted by strong-smelling foods in your fridge. Keeping them in the carton makes this less likely to happen.
- Usually the best before date is on the carton if you take the eggs out of the carton, you won't know when the date has passed.
- Cooking eggs thoroughly kills bacteria, but bacteria can survive if food is not cooked until it's hot all the way through.
- The more thoroughly cooked the egg, the less likely bacteria can survive.
- Foods containing eggs that are thoroughly cooked are generally safe. These include cakes, firm quiches and biscuits.
- Buy and use eggs before the best before date.
- Thoroughly clean your hands, food areas, work surfaces, dishes, cleaning cloths and utensils after working with eggs and especially after egg spills.
- Serve hot dishes containing eggs straight away or cool them quickly in the fridge and keep them refrigerated until they are eaten.
- Consider alternatives for vulnerable people. Food-related illnesses can affect anyone, but are more common in children under five and young adults. The symptoms are often worse in pregnant women, the elderly and people with impaired immune systems.