Nutritious and versatile in the kitchen, the egg delights young and old alike. Egg is one of the most versatile ingredients, and the key to its use is temperature control. The variety of egg preparations available, on their own or as an integral part of a recipe, allows us to enjoy their nutritional value in a very varied and habitual way.
Eggs, NEVER cook them this way: you bring salmonella to the table
Egg is one of the most complete and accessible foods that exist in the world. It has multiple benefits and characteristics that make it an optimal protein source for millions of people. Eggs can be cooked with or without the shell, these are some of the most common ways to prepare them. However, the egg is one of the foods that can also be ingested undercooked or even raw!
Just think of the classic “fresh beaten egg” with some sugar and a dash of coffee and Marsala liqueur, but also the soft-boiled egg. For those who do not want to take any risks, all recipes that are made precisely with raw eggs are to be excluded, as well as mayonnaise, some desserts such as tiramisu. Those who do not want to give up the taste of homemade mayonnaise and other traditional preparations can minimize the risk of poisoning by taking extreme hygienic measures, and for added safety, you can pasteurize eggs at home or buy pasteurized eggs already at the supermarket.
Salmonella: beware, egg is the main food that causes infection
Food poisoning from consumption of contaminated eggs has been greatly reduced in recent decades due to the strengthening of safety measures, but it is very difficult to achieve a zero-risk situation. The best way to avoid this is to always consume well-cooked eggs, as this is the only way to eliminate pathogenic bacteria.
The main pathogen with which eggs can be contaminated are bacteria of the genus Salmonella, which cause salmonella or salmonellosis. This gastroenteritis can become severe, especially in the most vulnerable people. Campylobacter bacteria-which also cause diarrhea and vomiting-can also be present in eggs, but much less frequently.
Miguel Angel Lurueña, Ph.D. in Food Science and Technology and author of the book Don’t mess with food (Destiny, 2021), explains about the risks from consuming certain types of food, and there are many comments about it: “I’ve always done it this way and nothing has ever happened to me.” The expert believes this is equivalent to saying, “I’ve always gone without buckling up in the car and nothing has ever happened to me.” Of course, he argues, “there are people to whom nothing has ever happened, but many others have.”
Food safety expert Esther Carrera Puerta, a professor at CEU San Pablo University (Madrid), points out that this microorganism is also transmitted by other products, such as meat, but egg is “the main food for salmonella.”
The proportion of eggs contaminated with this bacterium has decreased significantly in recent years thanks to controls on poultry farms and vaccination campaigns for hens. Despite this, however, many cases of infection continue to occur, leading affected hens to contaminate eggshells at the time of laying. It is rarer for the bacteria to also be found inside the egg.
Salmonella, only then you lower the risk of infection from eggs
Measures to minimize the risk of salmonellosis are based on two basic factors: the shell is the main place where the bacteria can be found, and the ambient temperature-especially in summer-promotes the proliferation of this pathogen. Taking both aspects into account, these are the most relevant tips to avoid infection:
- Always store eggs in the refrigerator.
- The fresher the egg, the better. Choose those that have an expiration date further out.
- Check that the egg is not broken. If it is, discard it.
- Wash the egg shell just before cracking it, but never long before consuming them. Experts advise against cleaning them long before their use because the shell forms a porous protective barrier, so during cleaning, pathogenic bacteria can pass inside.
- Extreme hygiene of the hands and containers you use while preparing the recipe.
- Do not break the egg in the same container in which you are going to make mayonnaise, omelet or any other preparation, as you may contaminate it.
- Once you have prepared the dish, consume it immediately. In case you do not consume it immediately, store it in the refrigerator. Refrigeration stops the multiplication of salmonella. But do not keep it in the refrigerator for a long time.
- A few drops of lemon or a little vinegar added to mayonnaise or other egg recipes, for example, not only give it a different flavor but also lower its pH, which reduces the risk of salmonella infection because the acidity prevents the pathogen from multiplying.