General Question

sliceswiththings's avatar

Are unrefrigerated eggs more likely to carry salmonella?

Asked by sliceswiththings (11666points) June 20th, 2012

I have brownies in the oven, and I did a great job of licking the bowl with the remnants of three raw eggs in it. While doing so, I was thinking about the “rule” to not lick the bowl lest you get salmonella from the raw eggs. My parents never enforced this rule when we were children, and I don’t enforce it as an adult. However, those were American eggs that stay refrigerated at all times.

Now, I am in the UK and the eggs are out on the shelf with the rest of the dry goods at the supermarket. Since they aren’t refrigerated during this time, is licking the brownie batter bowl any more dangerous than it is in my home country of hypochondriacs?


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15 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Here’s what the fear-mongering US-based Center for Disease Control says;

“Shell eggs are safest when stored in the refrigerator, individually and thoroughly cooked, and promptly consumed after cooking. The larger the number of Salmonella bacteria present in the egg, the more likely the egg is to cause illness. Keeping eggs adequately refrigerated prevents any Salmonella present in the eggs from growing to higher numbers, so eggs should be refrigerated until they are needed.”

Like other foods, keep eggs refrigerated at ≤40° F (≤4° C) at all times. Buy eggs only from stores or other suppliers that keep them refrigerated.

Discard cracked or dirty eggs.

Wash hands and all food contact surface areas (counter tops, utensils, dishes, and cutting boards) with soap and water after contact with raw eggs.

Then disinfect the food contact surfaces using a sanitizing agent, such as bleach, following label instructions.

Eggs should be thoroughly cooked until both the yolk and white are firm. Recipes containing eggs mixed with other foods should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C).


Coloma's avatar

I’ve never had an issue and have grown my own eggs for many years. I have eaten chicken eggs and goose eggs from my own birds, washed in cold water to remove any soiling and stored for up to a month or longer without issue. Eggs should never be washed in hot water which causes the pores of the shells to contract and absorb any bacteria on the shells.
Most likely you are fine. As @gailcalled beware of fear mongering.

You’ll know soon enough, a bout of food poisoning will come on quickly. If you do not feel ill within a few hours you’re outta the woods.

sliceswiththings's avatar

Thanks! I’m not really worried, I’ve eaten more than my fair share of raw batter/dough and lived to tell the tale so far.

cazzie's avatar

@sliceswiththings there are a few places in the world that salmonella is a real problem with eggs and I don’t think the UK is one of them. If your public health authority has not forbidden steak tar tar or soft boiled eggs you are OK. I would not eat a soft boiled egg in France. Just saying. Here in Norway, I feel completely safe with raw egg. I may be living in a fools paradise, but at least it is a paradise of some sort.

cazzie's avatar

@gailcalled you should get rid of cracked eggs. I don’t know what qualifies as a dirty egg. Perhaps one that is packed with a ready-for-use condom?

Coloma's avatar

@cazzie A dirty egg is one that is soiled with manure or left in a nest box for several hours after laying. Freshly lain eggs can be collected and perfectly fine within a 24 hour period, but the sooner the better. It is not common to have a crap covered egg, but, in natural backyard barnyard chicken keeping occasionally an egg will be streaked with poo. Commercial eggs roll down a slanted cage and are collected in a trough upon laying.

All eggs go through a bath and cleansing process usually.

Hens kept in a barn/coop lay their eggs in shavings or straw bedding which needs to be changed fairly frequently and nest boxes disinfected as well as regular treatment for mites.
Fertilized eggs can be stored around 55–56 degrees for several weeks and still be viable when placed in an incubator.

Commercial egg production in the factory farm sense is a very cruel practice.

cazzie's avatar

Oh, @Coloma I agree that it is very cruel. I have several family members in Wisconsin that have their own poultry and they love it. Not only are do they provide their little protein filled gems, but they are great company. ;o)

If there was a bit of poo and feather on an egg that had been collected the day before, I would NOT worry about it. Give it a wash and bobs your uncle.

harple's avatar

I’m in the uk, and have done this all my life, and I’ve never contracted Salmonella, or known anyone else who has.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Let’s bust a few myths about Salmonella.

Big Picture Salmonella is a bacilli. There are over 2,300 types; all are one-celled organisms. They can live in the intestinal tracts of living creatures and be passed to others by exposure to infected feces or by eating the meat of an infected animal not cooked to a proper temperature.

Illness “Salmonellosis” is the name of the illness when someone becomes infected by salmonella. While someone infected may not experience symptoms, a severe case will show up within 8 – 72 hours. Symptoms include stomach cramps, diarrhea, and sometimes a fever. It typically passes within several days without medication, but it can be serious, and even lead to death in children, the elderly, and pregnant women. On occasion, there are long-term side effects.

Preventing Salmonellosis Since salmonella is passed through exposure to an infected creature’s intestinal tract and/or feces, it all comes down to hygiene and food preparation. Cross contamination is of a particular concern. No one really knows what causes a case of salmonellosis unless they can prove the source. By the time that the symptoms hit, if they do, it is usually too late to run any testing.

Eggs It is extremely rare that an egg contains salmonella other than on the outside of the shell. For chickens that live in close quarters, since they typically peck at the ground for food, they are more likely to be exposed to salmonella living in their neighbors’ feces. The bacilli may come in contact with the shell of an egg. While it is possible that the bacilli may penetrate the egg’s porous shell, it is unlikely that it will do so. It would take a large amount of bacilli and the wrong food prep conditions for it to be passed on to a human consuming the egg.

UK Eggs After growing up in the US, it was shocking to me to discover that eggs were not refrigerated in the UK. What is even more surprising is that the UK hasn’t migrated towards the refrigeration method after the Edwina Currie Salmonella Scare in the 80’s. Yet, eggs are still sold in unrefrigerated sections of the shops. If this was still an issue with eggs, they would have been moved.

Coloma's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer Good source and yes…salmonella is not contained within the contents of the egg, only via contamination of the shell. :-)

bkcunningham's avatar

“Fear-mongering US based CDC.” That is a new one to me.

El_Cadejo's avatar

Down here in Central America eggs are never refrigerated and its friggin hot down here. That said Ive never had any issues with eggs and they taste just the same as they would if they would have been refrigerated. They also still seem to have quite a shelf life.

gailcalled's avatar

Here’s an article in today’s NYT about adding a little clean dirt to our diets, eliminating the hand sanitizers and other overly-fussy behavior relating to food and eating. It does, however. advocate buying produce at local farmers’ markets and becoming sensible locavores.

Eat more dirt

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Here is another article about UK eggs and testing for salmonella.

According to the survey, which sampled UK-produced eggs on sale in shops and markets, one in every 290 boxes of six eggs on sale has any salmonella contamination, compared with one in 100 in a 1995/96 survey.

All types of retail eggs were included in the latest survey. Eggs from chickens in cages accounted for 50% of total eggs sampled, free-range eggs 16.9%, barn eggs 16.5% and organic eggs 16.6%.

There were no statistically significant differences in the number of contaminated boxes from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, or between eggs from the different production types or schemes.

@Coloma There have been cases where salmonella was found within the contents of an egg. It is rare, but possible. Since egg shells are porous, the bacteria might be able to work its way inside under certain conditions.

@gailcalled That is an interesting article, albeit off-topic.

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