South Carolina is facing at least two outbreaks of salmonella, one of which could be attributed to raw or undercooked eggs. In an effort to prevent cases of the disease in North Carolina, state health officials are reminding North Carolinians to take appropriate measures when handling and using eggs.
State Health Director Dr. Leah Devlin stated that "North Carolina has reported 453 cases of salmonella in the first five months of 2005, which consists of cases contracted from food, people and pets, almost four times that number of cases were reported in 2004.”
The bacterium that causes salmonella enteritidis can be found inside seemingly normal eggs, but if eggs are eaten raw or undercooked, the bacteria can cause sickness and even death.To prevent infection with salmonella enteritidis, follow these rules when buying, storing, preparing, serving and eating eggs:
- Don’t eat raw eggs. This includes beverages made with raw eggs and foods traditionally made with raw eggs such as Caesar salad, hollandaise sauce, homemade mayonnaise, ice cream, eggnog and cookie dough, unless the dish was made with a pasteurized liquid egg product or pasteurized in-shell eggs. Egg mixtures made with an egg-milk base cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees are safe, too. Use a thermometer to make sure the mixtures reach the correct temperature.
- Buy clean eggs. At the store, choose Grade A or AA eggs with clean, uncracked shells. Open the carton and check that the eggs are clean and uncracked. Make sure they’ve been refrigerated in the store. Any bacteria present in an egg can multiply quickly at room temperature. Don’t wash eggs.
- Refrigerate eggs. Store eggs in their carton in the coldest part of the refrigerator — not in the door — and use within three to five weeks. The refrigerator should be set at 40 degrees or slightly below. Keep hard-cooked eggs in the refrigerator, not at room temperature. Use within one week.
- Freeze eggs for longer storage. Eggs should not be frozen in their shells. To freeze eggs, beat yolks and whites together. Egg whites also can be frozen by themselves. Use frozen eggs within one year.
- Cleanliness is key. Wash hands, utensils, equipment and work areas with warm, soapy water before and after contact with eggs and egg-rich foods. Don’t leave cooked eggs out of the refrigerator for more than two hours. When baking or cooking, take out the eggs you need, and then return the carton to the refrigerator.
- Cook eggs until yolks are firm. Many cooking methods can be used to cook eggs safely including poaching, hard cooking, scrambling, frying and baking. Casseroles and other dishes containing eggs should be cooked to 160 degrees as measured with a food thermometer. Serve cooked eggs and dishes containing eggs immediately after cooking, or place in shallow containers for quick cooling and refrigerate at once for later use. Use within three to four days.