Every year, on the second Friday of October, egg enthusiasts worldwide celebrate World Egg Day. Established in 1996, this day aims to appreciate the nutritional qualities of this wonderful food item. This year, it falls on October 14th, 2022, and we thought of honoring it by sharing egg-cellent pieces of knowledge with you.
Nutritional value and the health benefits of eggs
Eggs are one of nature’s nutrient powerhouses. Within their fragile shells, they pack a number of vitamins and minerals that are important for growth and development. A large egg (50g) contains 6g of high-quality protein and includes all of the 9 essential amino acids.
Eggs are also a source of healthy fats and these help absorb fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A and D.
They also contain other nutritional compounds such as choline, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Choline is important in cell structure development and brain function, while the latter are potent antioxidants protecting the eyes.
Despite being so nutrient-dense, an egg only contains 78 calories, thus making it an ideal choice for those who are calorie-conscious.
This versatile food can be devoured on its own or may be used in a variety of dishes ranging from sweet custards to savory frittatas.
Food safety concerns for eggs
As nutritious as they can be, eggs can be a source of foodborne illnesses if not handled properly. They can carry the pathogen Salmonella Enteritidis on the shells as well as on the inside.
Salmonella can get on the eggshells through the feces of the chicken. The bacterium can get inside through the tiny pores in the shells. It may also penetrate the egg before the shell is formed inside the hen’s reproductive system. Thus, as USDA warns, even clean, undamaged ones may contain the bacterium inside unless they are pasteurized.
This bacterium can trigger a type of foodborne disease known as food poisoning. Salmonella food poisoning (salmonellosis) can result in symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and fever. In most people, the symptoms go down on their own in a few days but in some, the disease develops into conditions that are more serious.
Therefore, eggs must be stored, handled, and cooked in a way that minimizes the risk of Salmonella contamination and growth.
Safe storage, handling, and cooking practices
Temperatures below 40F slow down the growth of Salmonella while temperatures above 150F kill it. CDC recommends storing eggs at temperatures at or lower than 40F. This means keeping them refrigerated at all times. They should be stored in the coldest part of the refrigerator and should not be kept in the door where the temperature is more likely to change frequently.
Eggs keep well in the fridge for 3 to 5 weeks. However, it’s not recommended to keep them out of the fridge for longer durations. When a cold egg is kept at room temperature, water will condense on the shell, making it easier for Salmonella to seep inside. Hence, they should not be left at room temperature for longer than 2 hours.
When cooking eggs, they must be fully cooked, until the yolk and the white are no longer runny. It’s OK to store boiled eggs in the refrigerator but they must be eaten within a week.
According to the CDC, egg-containing dishes must be cooked to a temperature of 160F and should be immediately served. If they require to be refrigerated after preparation, they should be reheated to 165F before serving.
Cold egg dishes need to be served at temperatures below 40F. Leaving these foods at room temperature for longer than two hours increases the chance of bacterial contamination, and thus, the risk of food poisoning.
If you’re following a recipe that needs to add eggs, don’t let the mixture stand at room temperature for longer than 20 minutes. It’s good practice to crack each egg into a separate bowl before mixing in to make sure that they have not gone bad.
Eating raw or undercooked eggs is not a good practice as it can cause salmonellosis. It’s always safe to use pasteurized ones in recipes calling for raw eggs such as mousses, mayonnaise, and royal icing.
There is always the risk of cross-contamination when dealing with raw eggs. After handling, hands should be washed thoroughly with soap. Empty shells should be immediately discarded and all the utensils and surfaces should be properly cleaned with soap.
Signs of bad eggs
While rotten ones are easy to tell apart due to their unmistakable foul smell, eggs with Salmonella on or in them give out no visible signs. However, some bacterial contaminations (other than Salmonella) may produce slime and discolored patches on shells while mold contamination may result in powder-like substances on shells. Molds can also cause black or green spots on shells.
Now that you know everything about handling, storing, and cooking eggs safely, it’s now time to get crackin’. You can even make a cake to celebrate World Egg Day, while you’re at it!
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