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Is It Safe to Eat Raw Eggs?

Kymberly loves to cook, bake, and preserve. She'd love more time to experiment in the kitchen and come up with delicious (healthy) recipes!

This raw egg is from a free-range hen.

This raw egg is from a free-range hen.

Mention eating raw eggs to someone, and they will most likely think of two things: food poisoning and bodybuilding. The fear of contracting a bout of salmonella poisoning stops many people from eating them raw. However, a great many people worldwide consume raw eggs regularly and safely.

Raw and undercooked eggs are safe to eat when you practice good food hygiene. They are actually easier to digest than cooked eggs. Eggs are packed with healthy protein, a variety of vitamins and minerals (A, D, B2, B6, B9, B12, iron and zinc), and the important omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, making them a great food in a healthy diet. Many foods and dressings are made with raw or undercooked eggs. It is quite likely you have often safely eaten them raw without even realizing it!

Cooking with raw eggs

Many dishes around the world feature them in sauces, condiments, or as part of the main dish. Protein bio-availability is higher in cooked eggs than in raw1, plus nutrition in eggs is better when hens can roam freely and forage for their food. Eggs are good sources of selenium, phosphorus, vitamin B12, riboflavin, and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.

Nutrition in a 50g Raw Egg

 Amount% Daily Value

Calories

71

-

Total Fat

5g

8%

Cholesterol

211mg

70%

Sodium

70mg

3%

Carbohydrates

0g

0%

Protein

6g

-

Sweet Dishes

  • raw cookie and cake dough
  • ice cream or sorbet made with egg yolk
  • unbaked cheesecake with egg whites
  • eggnog
  • tiramisu (Italy)
  • chiboust cream—used as a pastry filling (France)
  • mousse—chocolate or other dessert mousses made with whipped egg whites

Condiments and Sauces

  • mayonnaise
  • aioli—garlic mayonnaise (Spain)
  • sauce béarnaise and hollandaise (France)

Main Dishes

  • poached, soft-boiled, or sunny-side-up eggs
  • Caesar salad with soft-poached eggs
  • pasta carbonara with lightly cooked egg
  • steak tartare with a raw egg yolk
  • tamago gohan—an egg sauce mixed into rice (Japan)
  • sukiyaki—meat is dipped in beaten raw egg before eaten (Japan)
  • shakshuka—poached eggs and tomato sauce (Israel)
  • bimbibap—rice with sautéed vegetables and meat, topped with a raw egg (Korea)

Risk of Salmonella Contamination

The most common form of egg contamination is with the bacteria Salmonella Enteritidis, which causes food poisoning (diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and fever). Many people exposed to the bacteria do not develop symptoms, but exposure can be dangerous for immune-compromised people (pregnant, elderly, infirm).

A 2010 study of death certificates in the US discovered that there were, on average, 82 deaths per year caused by salmonella (from all food sources, not just eggs).2 An earlier study in 2002 by the US Department of Agriculture found that only 1 in 30,000 eggs produced were contaminated with salmonella.3 That is 0.00003% of the number of eggs produced annually. These two studies show that the risk of contracting salmonella from eggs is extremely low. You can take steps to lower that risk further.

Heat and Acid kill Salmonella Bacteria

Cooking eggs and meat thoroughly kills the Salmonella enteriditis bacteria, as it can not survive heat-treatment. Pasteurized (heat-treated) eggs may be available in your area and are a good choice for those who are frail or immune-compromised.

Pasteurize your own eggs by holding them in 60°C or 140°F water for 4 minutes. The water is not hot enough to cook the eggs, but it is hot enough to kill bacteria.

TIp: Acids, such as vinegar and lemon and lime juice, also kill bacteria.

Eggshells are porous and can absorb odors from other nearby foods.

Eggshells are porous and can absorb odors from other nearby foods.

How to Handle Eggs Safely and Avoid Salmonella

By following good food-handling practices and purchasing eggs from healthy hens, you reduce the risk of contamination further.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling food.
  • Purchase organic, free-range eggs. Hens that have space to roam and eat a natural diet are healthier, and good living conditions reduce the risk of contamination.
  • Ensure the eggs are fresh, and keep them covered in a refrigerator. Eggshells are porous and can absorb odors from other items in the fridge.
  • Alternatively, you can freeze eggs outside of their shells in ice-cube trays and then store the frozen egg-cubes in a sealed freezer bag.
  • Use your eggs within two weeks of purchase.
  • Wash eggshells under water just before cracking them.
  • Avoid using any eggs that have cracked shells.
  • Prevent cross-contamination by washing containers and surfaces that have been in contact with raw eggs before using them for other foods.
This is an undercooked sunny-side up  egg.

This is an undercooked sunny-side up egg.

Raw Eggs Are as Safe as Salad, Peanut Butter and Fruit

Outbreaks of salmonella poisoning originating from salad vegetables4, sprouts5, peanuts6, and even fruit (watermelon7) have shown that safe handling of all produce is important throughout food production and processing lines and also by consumers.

Raw and undercooked eggs are used in so many dishes, sweets, and treats that it would be a shame to not eat them. Choose cold, fresh, free-range eggs, handle them hygienically, and follow good food-safety practices. If you do all of these things, you can be sure your eggs are safe for eating!

References

  1. Digestibility of Cooked and Raw Egg Protein in Humans as Assessed by Stable Isotope Techniques, P. Evenepoel, B. Geypens, A. Luypaerts, M. Hiele, Y. Ghoos, P. Rutgeerts, Journal of Nutrition, October 1, 1998 128(10): 1716-1722
  2. Salmonellosis-Related Mortality in the United States, 1990–2006, P. L. Cummings, F. Sorvillo, and T. Kuo. Foodborne Pathogens and Disease. November 2010, 7(11): 1393-1399
  3. An overview of the Salmonella enteritidis risk assessment for shell eggs and egg products, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, Risk Analysis, April 2002 , 22(2): 203-18.
  4. Taylor Farms Retail Inc. Initiates A Precautionary Recall Because Of Possible Salmonella Risk, US Food and Drug Administration, 19 October, 2011
  5. Risks associated with sprouts, Health Canada, August 2011
  6. How does salmonella get into peanut butter? And can you kill it once it's there?, Scientific American, 13 January, 2009
  7. Watermelon found to be source of salmonella outbreak, BBC, 2 February, 2012

Comments

Mark. Australia on January 31, 2020:

Raw egg, banana, almond milk smoothie every day. No I’ll effect yet.

Dennis on January 28, 2020:

BTW,

1 out of 30,000 eggs have salmonella would give

1/30000 = 0.00003

Which is

0.003%

Mary on February 13, 2015:

Extremely interesting article!!! You totally just put my mind to rest. I'm considering making a chocolate pie & it has 4-5 raw eggs in it. Now I know it'll. be ok for me to eat. Thanks ever so much!!

Mary

mic on January 28, 2013:

have been eating raw eggs for 32 years in morning and post-workout. no disease, no sickness. just pure, shredded muscles.

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on November 02, 2012:

I'm not sure I have interpreted your comment correctly -- eggs are typically not fatal! And are in fact healthy! We need some cholesterol in our diets, and eggs are a good source. But, as with all foods, everything in moderation is the best way.

PallaviGaurav from South Africa. on October 27, 2012:

what a useful hub for me..i never knew that consuming raw eggs can be so fatal...plus the diet chart also suggest that there can be cardiac problems as well( because of high cholesterol level) if you are an egg lover.i will now incorporate eating fully cooked eggs in ma daily life.thanks...voted up for this one

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on July 10, 2012:

DF - Oh dear! I'm glad that at least some had your egg nog - home made (with rum!) tastes so good! Thanks for stopping by!

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on July 10, 2012:

Randy - hatcheries (equipment, rooms, eggs, chicken legs, etc.) are often sanitized with formaldehyde gas (which is then neutralised with ammonium hydroxide). Other disinfectants include chlorine dioxide to flood surfaces, phenolic compounds against fungus infections (toxic to humans), ozone and hydrogen peroxide, although there are other compounds that are also used at times.

I haven't found yet anything specific about disinfecting eggs destined to be eaten, but I'll keep looking.

Jill Spencer from United States on July 04, 2012:

I scandalized a neighbor once by taking egg nog made with raw eggs to a Christmas party--and I must have offended a few more since almost no one drank it, even though it contained both bourbon and rum. (Too bad they don't kill salmonella!) If only they'd read your hub! Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

Randy McLaughlin from Liberia, Costa Rica on June 30, 2012:

Very informative. I occasionally put a raw egg in my shakes to make a quick meal. I was wondering, what do they use for commercial disinfection of eggs?

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on May 07, 2012:

LauraGT - 'Cleaning up' is part of the fun of cooking, especially for kids! Glad you enjoyed the hub!

LauraGT from MA on May 04, 2012:

Thanks for this myth-busting hub. My kids often help "clean up" after we bake and have never gotten sick. Glad to know that I haven't really been putting them in jeopardy after all! :)

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on April 25, 2012:

BlissfulWriter - soft boiled eggs with runny yolks are a regular addition to my weekend breakfasts. Yum!

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on April 25, 2012:

Matthew - I completely agree - pasta carbonara needs runny egg yolks!

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on April 25, 2012:

Tara - pasta and pizza I knew about, but crepes? Interesting! It could work really well with a strong vanilla flavour!

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on April 25, 2012:

Jerrico - the shell is often the source of contamination! It can be improperly washed and stored by the egg-producers, and with everyone testing for broken eggs, bacteria does build up. Washing the eggs before using them is a good idea.

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on April 25, 2012:

Shawn - salmonella poisoning is awful. My family has had it multiple times (mostly from chicken, usually KFC, but occasionally from a butcher). Cooking eggs thoroughly is one way to avoid the risk.

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on April 25, 2012:

RTalloni - Thanks! It's always good to know how to minimize risks. Safe food handling is one thing that is not often taught (at home, or in schools).

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on April 25, 2012:

missolive - drinking fresh eggs -- that is something I couldn't do. I love getting lost in research, makes writing a lot more time consuming, but definitely more interesting!

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on April 25, 2012:

Cardelean - I was also surprised to find that it's so easy to pasteurize eggs at home!

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on April 25, 2012:

Cat - Thanks! Sounds like a lovely Christmas morning with a thick bourbon egg nog! I think I'd add vanilla (I'm a vanilla addict).

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on April 25, 2012:

Slightly Bonkers - I'll have to look for a new egg-free recipe - all the ones I've tried are less than creamy. If you know of a good one, please post it!

BlissfulWriter on April 09, 2012:

I like to soft-boil or poach the eggs in boiling water. That way I don't have to use oil to fry. And it is not completely raw. But yolk is slightly runny.

Matthew Kirk on April 06, 2012:

I enjoy raw eggs when I make traditional carbonara, well almost raw! Plus runnier eggs are better in scrambled egg!

Tara McNerney from Washington, DC on March 17, 2012:

The French put raw eggs on pasta, pizza, crepes, etc...you're supposed to spread it out/mix it in and it enhances the flavor!

Jerrico Usher from Bend, Oregon on March 10, 2012:

Don't forget that the part of the egg that most often makes someone sick is the shell which may be flooded with bacteria of all sorts, especially if people opened the egg carton and touched them then put them back)... In my hub about getting rid of acne there is a trick using egg whites and I made sure to mention the egg itself is likely safe but the shell and touching it then touching the egg whites will likely be the culprit of bacterial infection (ingested or not).

Great hub!

Shawn Scarborough from The Lone Star State on March 10, 2012:

This is a very informative hub with some great information. I had food poisoning from salmonella bacteria a few years ago. I was sick for about a 5 days and never wish to experience that again. I always cook my eggs and I avoid recipes that use raw eggs.

RTalloni on March 10, 2012:

Although I couldn't eat raw eggs because of what is sometimes found in them, I find this interesting and am glad to have more information on the safety of raw eggs. People have been sickened and have even died from the risks, but, obviously, the risks can be seriously minimized. This is well done and important. Thanks!

Marisa Hammond Olivares from Texas on March 10, 2012:

great information here. I remember my brothers guzzling down fresh eggs. I don't think I could ever stomach that. You have pointed out some great facts and tips here. I appreciate you including the valuable resources at the end of your hub. It adds great credibility to your information. I've always been a research geek and I like seeing clinical studies and their findings. Thank you for sharing.

Voted up and shared.

cardelean from Michigan on March 09, 2012:

I knew that raw eggs were used in many dishes but I didn't know that you could pasteurize your own eggs! Thanks for teaching me something new.

Catherine Tally from Los Angeles on March 08, 2012:

Great hub and lots of helpful and interesting info! I used to see raw egg added to table-side Caesar Salad prep at Canlis Restaurant, but that has probably changed due to salmonella risk.

As a long- held family tradition, we would have fresh Bourbon egg nog on Christmas morning. Egg whites were whipped w/ cream and folded into a mixture of beaten egg yolks, confectioner's sugar, and bourbon. Add some nutmeg and "voila!" It was so thick and creamy, you'd use a demitasse spoon. I'd suggest today using organic eggs.

Slightly Bonkers from Ireland on March 08, 2012:

Enjoy your mousse au chocolat... there are many recipes out there without raw eggs - so the treat is even the better :)

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on March 08, 2012:

Wesman - I'm not sure I could drink them pure, or mixed with grapefruit juice! But I am happy to munch on boiled eggs with a little salt or curry powder after a workout! After all, protein is necessary for muscle repair.

Slightly bonkers and Turtlewoman - Thanks for your comments! In researching this article, I found that organic made no difference (above free range) to the risk of contamination. But on an environmental/animal care front, organic is better, I feel. And pasteurisation certainly helps reduce the risk.

A hangover cure before sleeping? Erk - I think that would make me empty my stomach.

calculus-geometry - Thank you! They are certainly used a lot in desserts! Now I'm craving some rich chocolate mousse.

calculus-geometry on March 07, 2012:

I'll eat them in desserts if they're mixed with tons of sugary stuff and dairy products, but any less adulteration and I get queasy. Anyway, great hub and very informative!

Kim Lam from California on March 07, 2012:

Hi nifwlseirff,

Pastured organic eggs are the best option for reducing risk of Salmonella infection because the chickens are raised in an optimally cleaner/safer environment. I agree with you, people shouldn't fear eating raw eggs...just have to be careful. You have some good ideas on how to lower the risk. voted up!

Slightly Bonkers from Ireland on March 07, 2012:

In general, if you have organic eggs, it should be safe. But then... why would anyone drink a raw egg? It turns my stomach even thinking about it :( I know a guy who believed it is a remedy against hangovers and had one before going to bed.... it would make me sick I believe!

Wesman Todd Shaw from Kaufman, Texas on March 07, 2012:

Oh I used to guzzle them on down at the end of workouts. I was never much of a weight lifter, but was interested in adding some pounds of muscle, and need to get right back into that too!

They don't taste nearly so bad as people think....if you manage to mix them really well with Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice!!! :;