The Truth about Salmonella in Eggs

Salmonella, the bacteria blamed for most cases of food poisoning, lives in the intestinal tract of animals and humans. It is shed through feces and typically humans have no symptoms, but some develop severe symptoms and some can even develop life-threatening symptoms if the infection spreads beyond the intestines .[1]


The Truth About Salmonella in Eggs

Salmonella in Eggs

Here are the facts about Salmonella in eggs:

  • Bacteria can exist on the outside of an eggshell. After all, an egg leaves a hen’s body via the same path as their feces and then they sit on them.

  • Commercial eggs are required by law to be washed while at a processing plant. All USDA graded eggs and most large volume processors follow the washing step with a sanitizing rinse at the processing plant. Inspection, for wholesomeness, is mandatory but grading, for quality, is voluntary. If companies choose to have their eggs graded, they pay for this USDA service.[2]

  • It’s not just the shell that can carry Salmonella – it’s possible that this bacteria can exist either inside or outside of the egg. Eggs can become infected after they’ve been laid as the contamination can enter through pores in the shell. Or, since Salmonella doesn’t actually make a hen sick, they can also be carrying the bacteria in their reproductive tract – affecting the egg before the shell forms.

  • The bottom line is that the Salmonella bacteria could exist in the white, the yellow or the shell of an egg. So, buyer beware and follow the safe handling instructions stated on every carton of inspected eggs.
  • The Truth about Salmonella in Eggs

    Safe Handling Instructions for Eggs

    All packages of raw, shell eggs – NOT treated specifically to destroy Salmonella – must carry the following safe handling statement:

    SAFE HANDLING INSTRUCTIONS: To prevent illness from bacteria: keep eggs refrigerated, cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook foods containing eggs thoroughly.[3]

  • If you must use raw eggs and just can’t seem to follow the simple safe handling instructions, we know that people do regardless of how much they are warned, at least wash them off before cracking them open.
  • Additional Information

    If your egg has a blood spot that you are questioning, see our post regarding bloody eggs.

    To find out how long eggs last, see our egg page.

    To find out how long other foods are good for, please visit the Dairy, Drinks, Fruits, Grains, Proteins, Vegetables and Other sections of Eat By Date or use the search function below.

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