Are Eggs Safe to Eat Raw?
Fact

Raw eggs are safe to consume.

Are Eggs Safe to Eat Raw?

Raw pasteurized eggs are safe to eat or drink, but there are slight risks of a salmonella illness, especially for the elderly, kids, and pregnant women. This means pasteurized eggs may be used safely without cooking, but given the slight risks, should not be done regularly.

FACT: Very few eggs contain salmonella, especially with pasteurization considered, so consuming raw pasteurized eggs is usually safe. Despite the relative safety of consuming raw eggs, it is possible to die from Salmonella illness. Learn more about Salmonella from the CDC.

FACT: The Egg Products Inspection Act, requires all U.S commercially sold egg products to be pasteurized.[1]

MYTH: It is a myth that Raw eggs have more protein than cooked ones. Or more technically, the body can better synthesize protein from cooked eggs according to studies.[2]

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Eating Raw Eggs

The U.S. Department of Agriculture states, “In-shell pasteurized eggs may be used safely without cooking.” Although the department does not recommend eating foods containing non-pasteurized raw eggs. In 1970, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the Egg Products Inspection Act, which required all commercially sold egg products to be pasteurized. [3][4]

What is Egg Pasteurization?

Created by microbiologist Louis Pasteur in 1864, pasteurization is a cleaning process used in juices, milk, cheese, eggs and other dairy products. The process is fairly simple, they heat the element just enough to eliminate the pathogens inside, but not enough to cook it (so it doesn’t lose nutritional value). This is beneficial because the reduction in bacteria count not only is safer but adds a longer shelf life for products. [5] [6]

Consuming Raw Eggs and Salmonella Risks

While eating pasteurized eggs raw is safe according to the USDA, eating eggs every day can carry a slight risk of a salmonella illness and can especially affect elderly, kids and pregnant women. Usually, Salmonella will cause stomach cramps and diarrhea that lasts up to 4-7 days, but the body can fight it off without antibiotics. People with impaired immune systems can’t fight the bacteria fast enough, which can result in dehydration and cause a deadly illness if not treated properly. [7][8]

It is generally safe for healthy adults to drink raw pasteurized eggs. Source: //pixabay.com/static/uploads/photo/2016/01/13/13/42/man-1137865_960_720.jpg

It is generally safe for healthy adults to drink raw pasteurized eggs. Source: Pixabay.com

How Often Do Eggs Contain Salmonella?

A 2002 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed that of the 69 billion eggs produced annually, only 2.3 million of them are contaminated with salmonella. Since that study, improvements to the pasteurization process have improved. Given facts like these we can say, despite the limited risk, it is safe for healthy adults to eat or drink raw eggs. Current research backs this up, as noted below.[9][10]

Salmonella Outbreaks

Despite the fact that eggs are the first thing pops up in your mind when “Salmonella” is mentioned, Salmonella is a bacteria that has many different forms and grows in all sorts of food such as:

The largest salmonella outbreak linked to eggs, was in 2010 when two Iowa farms were unknowingly giving their chickens feed and water that had been infected by the salmonella bacteria. This was quickly investigated and solved by the CDC within the year.[11]

Worldwide Eggs v.s. American Eggs

Every egg in the United States goes through the same process to be sold commercially. Once the egg is laid, it is quickly put into a machine to start the pasteurization process. Once completed the eggs are refrigerated until consumption. Europe classifies that a grade A egg should not be washed or cleaned in any way because it can cause damage to the cuticle of the egg, which is a small layer that protects the egg from contamination. Most countries in Europe don’t refrigerate their eggs; instead, they keep them at room temperature. Eggs can last about 28 days after being laid. Europe is starting to allow some Member States to use “egg-washing systems subject to authorisation.” Japan, however, uses a machine that not only cleans the eggs but inspects them for both cracks and blood spots within the egg, once completed the eggs are packaged and sent to markets un-refrigerated. Some of the Japanese favorite recipes call for raw eggs such as Tamagokake-Gohan, a raw egg over rice or Sukiyaki, beef and vegetables that are dipped in raw eggs.  [12][13][14]

NOTE: If an egg is refrigerated, you shouldn’t leave it at room temperature for more than 2 hours. If the egg starts to sweat, bacteria, which will ruin your eggs can grow.



Conclusion

Eggs are generally safe to eat raw as long as they are pasteurized. However, other countries eat non pasteurized eggs raw all the time. Salmonella is a bacteria that can grow in many foods and is not only restricted to eggs. In today’s pasteurized eggs salmonella is very uncommon. Despite this, one can technically die from salmonella illness.


Citations

  1. Egg Products Inspection Act” FDA.gov
  2. Digestibility of cooked and raw egg protein in humans as assessed by stable isotope techniques.” NIH.gov
  3. Egg Products and Food Safety” fsis.USDA.gov
  4. Shell Eggs from Farm to Table” fsis.USDA.gov
  5. Unpasteurized Milk Can Pose a Serious Health Risk” FDA.gov
  6. Milk, Cheese, and Dairy Products Myths About Raw Milk” Foodsafety.gov
  7. Multistate Outbreak of Human Salmonella Enteritidis Infections Associated with Shell Eggs (Final Update)” CDC.gov
  8. Tips to Reduce Your Risk of Salmonella from Eggs” CDC.gov
  9. Risk Analysis April 2002 22(2):203-18” NIH.gov
  10. Evaluating the effectiveness of pasteurization for reducing human illnesses from Salmonella spp. in egg products: results of a quantitative risk assessment” NIH.gov[
  11. Salmonella Outbreak Investigations” CDC.gov
  12. Access to European Union law” Eur-lex.europa.eu
  13. The raw appeal of eggs” Japantimes.co
  14. Japan’s Super Egg Machine” Web-japan.org


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Mark Dubose on

Under “How Often Do Eggs Contain Salmonella”, you reference the 2002 study of of the number of eggs thought to contain salmonella, but then state pasteurization methods have improved. However, the study was of unpasteurized eggs, so it is irrelevant whether or not methods of improved. Once pasteurized, there is no salmonella risk, unless the eggs were either recontaminated or not pasteurized correctly. Also, to clarify, the USDA does NOT require eggs in their shells to be pasteurized. Only egg products (those out of their shells) have the pasteurization requirement. If 2.3 million eggs have salmonella out of 69 billion, that’s one out of every 30,000. That means every time you eat a raw shell egg you have a 1 out of 30,000 chance of being contaminated. If you eat 2 eggs raw, it does not increase your odds. It’s like rolling a dice 5 times. Each roll has the same odds of getting a four. Finally, every egg in America is NOT put into a machine soon after it is laid to start the pasteurization process. Eggs are NOT pasteurized unless they are processed out of the shell, unless you buy the one product on the market that pasteurizes in the shell //www.safeeggs.com/safest-choice-pasteurized-eggs/how-we-pasteurize-eggs). Any other carton of shell eggs you buy in the store has not been pasteurized, and thus has the 1 in 30,000 chance for each egg in that carton.