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Raw eggs and the risk of salmonella

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has revealed that 30 people per year lose their lives as a result of eating raw eggs contaminated with salmonella bacteria.
  • Research has found that the body only absorbs 51% of the protein contained in eggs when eaten raw , meaning that cooked eggs are a much better option.
  • In terms of protecting yourself when consuming raw eggs, it is advised that only pasteurized products be selected. However, young children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems should avoid eating raw eggs altogether.

 

Eggs are considered to be one of the healthiest due to the proteins, lecithin, lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin B, selenium, phosphorus and folates they contain. It is therefore recommended that we eat between 1-3 eggs a day.

The trend of eating raw eggs cracked into bowls of rice and topped with various sauces has its roots in Japanese cuisine. Another way of eating raw eggs that also originates in Japan is to marinated separated egg yolks overnight in soy sauce until they have a soft, runny texture, before adding them to rice or vegetable dishes. These trends have become so popular that many people want to try them out. However, eating eggs in their raw form, or foods made with raw eggs, could place you at an increased risk of contracting salmonella.

Benefits of eggs

  • Raw eggs have the same health benefits as cooked eggs in that they are full of proteins, unsaturated fats, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that can protect your eyes such as lutein and zeaxanthin, and a whole host of other nutrients that greatly benefit the body.
  • 1 raw egg contains up to 147mg of choline, an essential substance for promoting healthy brain function. Moreover, choline also plays a role in maintaining heart and liver health as it is from the same family as vitamin B. It can help to reduce LDL levels, prevent heart disease, aid the liver in its metabolism of fats, and reduce liver fat accumulation (fatty liver disease).

Risks associated with raw egg consumption

  • Research suggests that our bodies only absorb 51% of the protein contained in eggs when eaten in their raw form, so it is recommended that we only eat cooked eggs.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found that approximately 79,000 people experience a food-related illness each year, with 30 of them dying, from salmonella bacteria found in raw eggs. Salmonella finds its way into eggs as a result of the sexual organs of some egg-laying hens being contaminated with salmonella typhimurium and salmonella enteritidis.

There are a number of factors which may increase the likelihood of eggs being contaminated with salmonella bacteria:

  • The number of hens or ducks in a group
  • The stress or anxiety levels of the egg-laying animals
  • The food consumed by those animals
  • Vaccinations
  • The sanitation and cleanliness of the area used to rear egg-laying animals

Symptoms of salmonella

It may take up to 2 days to contract a salmonella bacterial infection, with the most common symptoms being abdominal pain, diarrhea, passing blood in stools, vomiting, headaches, nausea, fever, shivering and loss of appetite.

Symptoms generally last between 2–7 days, although diarrhea could last around 10 days and it may take months until the intestines are functioning normally again. Should you experience any of the above symptoms for more than 2 days, it is advised that you seek medical diagnosis and treatment.

Recommendations regarding the consumption of raw eggs

Eggs in their raw form contain the same amount of nutrients as their cooked counterparts, although the absorption of protein is reduced when eating raw eggs. The risk of bacterial contamination is heightened, which could result in a salmonella infection. Preventive measures should be taken when choosing eggs for raw consumption, including being sure that the product is pasteurized. Nevertheless, for young infants, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems, it is advised that raw eggs be avoided altogether. Eating cooked eggs is the most effective way to reduce risk while still receiving all the benefits an egg can provide.


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