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The truth about eggs and salmonella 10/10
(This article is adapted from the Health Blog at ConsumerReportsHealth.org.)

If you're less excited about eggs lately because of the massive multi-state recall, the largest egg recall in recent history, you're not alone. From May 1 to September 14, 2010 more than 1,600 reported cases of salmonella poisonings have been linked to contaminated eggs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And that's just the reported cases.

Salmonella enteritidis is a serious illness, marked by fever, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea beginning 12 to 72 hours after consuming contaminated food; symptoms can last four to seven days. Most people recover without antibiotic treatment, but some become so ill they require hospitalization. The elderly, infants, and people with compromised immune systems are more susceptible to severe illness.

The good news is you don't have to give up eggs altogether. Eggs are packed with protein and are a good source of vitamin D and choline, a nutrient recently linked to a reduced risk of birth defects and possibly breast cancer.

Shopping wisely

If you buy eggs labeled with the "USDA certified organic" logo, you minimize exposure to potential toxins in non-organic feed. You also avoid the results of production methods that use daily supplemental hormones and antibiotics, which have been linked to increased antibacterial resistance in humans. But organic or "cage-free" on the label doesn't mean salmonella-free eggs. In the store, you should choose cold egg cartons and look for those with the latest sell-by date.

How to reduce your risks

You can reduce your risk of getting sick from eggs by following the CDC's safety tips:

1. Don't eat recalled eggs. They might still be in grocery stores, restaurants, and people's homes. Consumers who have recalled eggs should discard them or return them to their retailer for a refund. A searchable database of products affected by the recall is available to consumers.

2. Keep eggs refrigerated at, or under, 45° F (=7° C) at all times.

3. Discard cracked, sticky or dirty eggs.

4. Wash hands, cooking utensils, and food preparation surfaces with soap and water after contact with raw eggs.

5. Eggs should be cooked until both the white and the yolk are firm, and eaten promptly after cooking.

6. Do not keep eggs warm or at room temperature for more than two hours.

7. Refrigerate unused or leftover egg-containing foods promptly.

8. Avoid eating raw eggs such as those in homemade ice cream, egg nog and dressing that calls for pooled or raw eggs.

9. Avoid restaurant dishes made with raw or undercooked, unpasteurized eggs. Restaurants should use pasteurized eggs in any recipe (such as Hollandaise sauce or Caesar salad dressing) that calls for raw eggs.

10. Consumption of raw or undercooked eggs should be avoided, especially by young children, elderly persons, and persons with weakened immune systems or debilitating illness.

11. Caregivers and parents should note that in hospitals, nursing homes, adult or childcare facilities, schools, senior centers, and other facilities, pasteurized egg products or pasteurized in-shell eggs should be used in place of pooled eggs, or raw or undercooked eggs.

12. Individuals who think they might have become ill from eating recalled eggs should consult their health-care provider.

Related links
Egg recall grows to over half billion; Consumers Union calls for action on food-safety bill 8/23/10

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Shelled Eggs Recall Products List

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