Assuring Food Safety

Any food, particularly protein-rich animal foods, can carry microorganisms that cause disease or spoil the food. Shell eggs without cracks have chemical and physical properties that help to deter bacterial growth. The egg shell and the membranes between the shell and the white and between the white and the yolk act as physical barriers to bacterial growth inside the egg. Eggs are more susceptible to bacterial growth once the shell and membranes are broken, the egg is exposed to oxygen, and the nutrients from the white and the yolk are mixed.

Divert any eggs with cracks, chips or breaks (which encourage bacteria to pass through the shell) away from the food supply. Intact eggs are washed and sanitized shortly after they are laid to remove any microorganisms that might be present on the surface of the shell. A continuation of sanitary practice (with particular emphasis on hand-washing during food preparation) is necessary to ensure that food is not re-contaminated with bacteria, viruses or parasites.

Food safety control measures include keeping eggs cool and using eggs less than 28 days old. Since bacteria can grow readily once the shell is broken, the practice of pooling eggs is discouraged. Menu items made with shell eggs and cooked in response to a consumer’s order should be prepared for immediate service. For the preparation of large quantities of eggs, pasteurized egg products are recommended. The use of a thermometer when preparing sauces and casseroles will ensure the food has reached appropriate temperatures.

Containers and utensils that have contact with raw egg must be washed and sanitized before being used again, even for the same recipe. Vulnerable populations, such as the very young or the aged, can be protected by using pasteurized egg products.

Eggs should be cooked until the whites are set (completely coagulated and firm) and the yolks begin to thicken (no longer runny, but not hard). Scrambled eggs and omelettes should be cooked until firm throughout with no visible liquid egg remaining. For egg-containing dishes, like sauces and casseroles, cook until an internal temperature of 160° F or above has been reached.

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