Do I need to worry about Salmonella in eggs?
One of several types of bacteria which can cause foodborne illness (salmonellosis) if ingested in large numbers. The Salmonella group of bacteria can be found in the intestinal tract of animals, birds, insects, reptiles, fish, seafood and people. Salmonella can be passed to humans through the consumption of contaminated foods that have been in contact with unwashed hands, raw meat or poultry, eggs, seafood, milk, or by coming in contact with contaminated animal feces. It was once thought that inside of the chicken egg was sterile, the shell protecting the contents from any kind of contamination. Dr. St. Louis and colleagues discovered in the late 1980’s that a bacteria, Salmonella Enteritidis, could indeed get inside the egg through the hens reproductive tract.
Since this discovery, researchers, egg producers, and government agencies have worked hard to implement and maintain practices to ensure that the hen does not have the ability to shed SE into the egg. The chance of an egg becoming infected with SE is very low. If it is present in the egg, producers can control the growth through refrigeration and kill it with processes like pasteurization. SE will not grow at temperatures below 40oF (4°C) and is killed at 160oF (71°C). Temperatures between 40°F (4°C) and 140oF (60°C), known as the danger zone, are ideal for rapid growth. Eggs are required to be refrigerated at or below 45°F (7°C) no later than 36 hours after being laid.
The majority of salmonellosis outbreaks have been attributed to foods other than eggs – nuts, vegetables, chickens, beef and fish – and through cross contamination of utensils and other foods used during preparation. Of the outbreaks involving eggs, most have occurred in foodservice operations and have been the result of inadequate refrigeration and insufficient cooking.
You can avoid illness from SE through adequate refrigeration, proper cooking and sanitary kitchen and food handling procedures.