Food Safety: General Information

Center for Science in the Public Interest

CSPI’s “Eggspert” Egg Advice

Eating eggs raw or undercooked used to be OK until a special kind of Salmonella bacteria, called Salmonella enteritidis, found a way to get inside the egg. Now favorite, time-honored dishes such as homemade eggnog and ice cream, French toast, custards, and Caesar salad may not be safe to eat. Taking the following precautions can help ensure that you and your family and friends will not become sick from eggs.

A fresh, clean, and cold start. At the store, make sure the eggs aren’t cracked or broken and are clean. Buy eggs that have the latest "use-by" or "sell-by" date if there’s one on the carton. Steer clear of unrefrigerated eggs. When you get home, immediately refrigerate the eggs in their original container. Use refrigerated eggs within four to five weeks.
 The deep freeze. To store eggs for up to a year, freeze them, but not in their shells. Crack whole eggs and beat the yolks and the whites. Egg whites can be frozen separately, too. Thaw frozen eggs in the refrigerator.

Prepare with care. To avoid spreading any bacteria from eggs to other foods, wash your hands, utensils, cooking equipment, and anything else that comes into contact with raw eggs or foods containing raw eggs with hot, soapy water.

Heating things up. Eggs and dishes containing shell eggs must be thoroughly cooked to kill any bacteria that may be in the eggs. Whole eggs should be cooked until the yolk and white are firm. Scrambled eggs should not be runny. Use a thermometer to make sure the internal temperature of dishes containing eggs reaches 160° F.

"P" is for pasteurized. If you make those traditional homemade treats that call for raw or undercooked eggs (including eggnog, ice cream, French toast, Hollandaise sauce, and custards), use pasteurized egg products. If you want to make eggnog, ice cream, and sauces with whole eggs safely, gradually heat the egg-milk mixture to 160° F or until it coats a metal spoon.

Don’t steal the dough. Although it’s almost too tempting for children and many adults, homemade cookie dough can no longer be sampled safely. Raw whole eggs in cookie dough, cake batter, or frosting may contain harmful bacteria. If you just can’t make desserts without sneaking some dough or batter, use pasteurized egg products in place of whole eggs.

The two-hour trigger. To keep egg-containing foods safe while they are being served, leave them out for no longer than two hours. If you’re having a buffet, don’t serve all the food at once. Keep the second and third servings either hot at or above 140° F in the oven or cold in the refrigerator. To prevent contamination, put additional food out on clean platters instead of adding it to platters already on the table.

Good things in small packages. Separate any leftovers into shallow containers. Use any egg-containing leftovers within 3-4 days. Hard-cooked eggs can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week after cooking. Reheat leftovers to 165° F.

Easter basket basics. If you’re planning to eat your Easter eggs after the big hunt, be sure use a food-safe dye. Also, dye and refrigerate the eggs within two hours of hard-boiling them. And make sure they’ll be eaten or re-refrigerated no more than two hours after they’ve been taken out of the refrigerator for hiding. Hide eggs away from dirt, pets, and other possible sources of bacteria. Don’t eat any eggs that become cracked during the hunt.