Eating raw eggs is getting trendier, but the food safety council says it’s not that safe. The Food Safety Information Council this week released worrying research that shows one in four Australian adults eat raw eggs and 12 per cent eat them often, with the worrying numbers having doubled in the last three years.
Eating raw and undercooked egg dishes can cause serious food poisoning as some eggs may contain salmonella. In fact, in May/June this year 235 people became unwell from a Salmonella Enteritidis outbreak linked to eggs.
Cathy Moir, chair of the Food Safety Information Council, is now urging Australians to take extra caution in the kitchen and make sure that the eggs and egg dishes they eat are safe for consumption.
“Salmonella infection is a common type of food poisoning in Australia and eggs can be contaminated by salmonella on the outside of the eggshell as they are laid or sometime later,” she says.
“In rare cases, salmonella can enter eggs when they are being formed in the chicken. Cooking is an effective way to kill all types of salmonella, however, lots of people like undercooked and raw eggs and egg dishes and this trend is increasing.”
Eggs are one of the biggest sources of food poisoning if they are not handled or prepared correctly and many people put themselves at unnecessary risk when preparing uncooked dishes, sauces and dressings that contain raw or lightly cooked eggs such as fresh mayonnaise, mousses, tiramisu or egg nog.
Previous research found one in five people didn’t realise that homemade mayonnaise containing egg needed to be refrigerated immediately, while 2 per cent believed it could be left out of the fridge all night and 7 per cent didn’t know what to do at all.
“Some people are more at risk from food poisoning than others,” Moir adds. “Dishes containing raw eggs as an ingredient, that aren’t going to be cooked before being eaten, should not be served to vulnerable people.”
She says these include babies, toddlers, pregnant women, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.
“Be cautious when cooking for these vulnerable people. When you want to prepare egg dishes that aren’t fully cooked you can protect vulnerable people and other consumers using pasteurised eggs rather than raw eggs is an alternative.”
The Food Safety Information Council is now calling on retailers to make pasteurised eggs (eggs that have been exposed to heat in order to reduce the risk of food-borne illness) more available to consumers.
To minimise your risk of food poisoning from eating eggs, the Food Safety Information Council recommends following seven simple steps. Don’t buy cracked or dirty eggs as these are more likely to be contaminated with salmonella. Buy refrigerated eggs and store them in your fridge away from ready-to-eat foods.
Hands should be washed with soap and running water and dried thoroughly before and after handling eggs so you don’t contaminate other food. If you accidentally drop pieces of shell into your egg mixture while preparing food, remove the shell pieces with a clean fork or spoon and cook thoroughly (as it could contaminate the whole mixture).
Don’t seperate the yolk from the white using the shell and eat raw egg dishes as soon as you prepare them. If you need to store the raw egg dish refrigerate it immediately at 5°C or below.