Pasteurized Eggs: Where to Buy Them and How They Taste
Pasteurized eggs are a great product for anyone who’s got special concerns about food safety , but not every grocery store carries them.
A company called Safest Choice sells pasteurized eggs in grocery stores across the country, and they have a store locator to help you find stores in your area that carry them.
Pasteurized eggs provide peace of mind when it comes to food safety, particularly when preparing recipes that call for uncooked eggs. And if you’re cooking for young kids, pregnant women, the elderly, or anyone with a compromised immune system, the safety you get with using pasteurized eggs might be worth the flavor trade-off.
Pasteurized Eggs: Pros & Cons
Eggs carry salmonella , which is the leading cause of food poisoning in the United States. Cooking kills the salmonella bacteria, but that still leaves two problems.
- Some recipes, like eggnog, spaghetti carbonara , and Caesar salad dressing , call for uncooked eggs.
- Even when preparing cooked eggs, you run the risk of cross-contamination . A little speck of raw egg on your hands or cutting board can be transferred to something else and ultimately make someone sick.
The solution is to use pasteurized eggs. Pasteurized eggs are gently heated in their shells, just enough to kill the bacteria but not enough to actually cook the egg, making them safe to use in any recipe that calls for uncooked or partially cooked eggs. Note that poached eggs and eggs prepared over-easy or sunnyside-up aren’t fully cooked.
Moreover, because of cross-contamination risk, if you’re cooking for someone in one of the categories mentioned above, you might want to use pasteurized eggs anyway.
Safest Choice Pasteurized Eggs
For a long time, the only pasteurized egg products that were available to consumers were liquid eggs or liquid egg whites. It was difficult, if not impossible, to find pasteurized shell eggs in a normal grocery store.
While Safest Choice eggs aren’t available everywhere, they are getting their products into more and more stores across the country. If you’re into food safety, Safest Choice seems to be a company that genuinely shares your concerns.
The slightly less-than-amazing news is that the eggs don’t taste that great. That eggy flavor you want from an egg was a little thinned-out somehow. Maybe you wouldn’t notice the difference; a little salt will help, in any case.
“Mushy” is not a nice word to use for describing eggs, but it’s the word that comes to mind. The eggs just weren’t as firm as regular fresh eggs — they definitely lacked some of that “bite” you expect from a properly cooked, fluffy scrambled egg.
Another problem is that pasteurized eggs are terrible for preparations where you want to whip the egg whites to get stiff peaks. The pasteurization process affects the ability of the proteins in the eggs to get firm. Unfortunately, that’s just the reality of pasteurized eggs.
The obvious solution is to use regular eggs for cooked egg recipes, and use pasteurized eggs for sauces and other recipes that call for raw eggs.
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American travelers to Europe may have noticed that people “across the pond” often store raw shell eggs at room temperature. They can safely do that because of the way eggs are produced in Europe, but it can’t be safely done in the U.S. because of Salmonella. Salmonella bacteria, discovered in 1885 and named for the man who headed the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) back then, can be transmitted via the outside of an egg if there is chicken manure present, or from inside the egg via the hen. Salmonella infections are common in the U.S., causing at least 42,000 illnesses each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, CDC notes that the actual number of Salmonella-related illnesses is likely much higher since many people don’t seek health care for their symptoms. Salmonellosis causes diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12-72 hours after infection by the bacteria, symptoms usually last four to seven days, and most people recover without treatment. Some people, however, develop serious diarrhea requiring hospitalization, and Salmonellosis can be fatal if the infection spreads from the intestines to the bloodstream and other parts of the body — unless the person is promptly treated with antibiotics. USDA requires raw shell eggs to be washed before they are sold. After being rinsed in hot water and dried, most large-volume processors then use a sanitizing rinse at the processing plant (this step is required for all USDA-graded eggs). Many processors then apply a light coating of food-grade mineral oil to the eggs to keep them from drying out. In the U.K. , the majority of egg producers vaccinate hens to help prevent Salmonella and generally do not wash or clean raw eggs before sending them to market because it may damage the shell, which can function as a barrier to pathogens. Their philosophy is to retain the thin coating called the “cuticle” that naturally occurs on the outside of the egg. Refrigerating raw eggs is discouraged in the U.K. since the condensation that occurs after eggs are chilled and then warmed could potentially allow Salmonella bacteria to get inside the shell. These egg production practices have reduced the incidence of Salmonella illnesses in Britain from 14,771 reported cases in 1997 to 581 cases in 2009. Egg producers in the U.S. are starting to vaccinate laying hens more often than in the past, although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require it . After considering mandatory vaccination of hens for Salmonella in 2004, FDA concluded that the practice was promising but that “more information on the effectiveness of vaccines needs to be generated before we would mandate vaccination as a (SE) prevention measure.” In 2010, a Salmonella outbreak that sickened at least 1,300 people in the U.S. was linked to eggs produced in Iowa. About 550 million eggs were later recalled in connection with that outbreak.
In the late 1980;s there was extensive research into eggs after Edwina made her famous comments on the sanitary standards of the industry. The net result of the research was that the optimum method to store eggs was in the carton and refrigerated. Condensation is the main factor that defines the microbiological safety of eggs rather than storage temp. With respect to egg washing, research demonstrated that the practice was more likely to increase the risk of Salmonella. I would go against the hypothesis that UK eggs are Salmonella free – look back in the history of outbreaks
In the UK it is a requirement for eggs to be stored under refrigeration by the final user – the consumer or the caterer. We allow eggs to be transported and stored/displayed for sale below 20C as long for around 3 weeks from point of lay. The reason for this is that the natural antimicrobial properties of the egg prevent any salmonella that may be present internally from multiplying.
It is interesting that when we were having major problems with salmonella food poisoning outbreaks they were all associated with products made with raw eggs which were not cooked or only lightly cooked, like mousse, mayonnaise, sauces and homemade ice cream. Other than temperature abused pooled scrambled egg I do not recall any UK reported proven outbreaks implicating soft fried or soft boiled eggs – despite all the hype. This is because the numbers of salmonella in clean, undamaged eggs within their shelf life was very small. I noticed the information from Australian outbreaks was similar.
If your experience in the USA is different, and you are tracing outbreaks to “over easy eggs” perhaps this has something to do with the way they are washed etc.
The grass is always greener. According to EFSA (2014), the incidence of Salmonella in the
UK is 14.3 per 100,000, and the incidence in the EU is 22.2 per 100,000. S. Enteritidis represented 41.3% of Salmonella serovars in the EU. According to CDC (2014), the incidence of Salmonella in the US is 15.2 per 100,000, and S. Enteritidis represented 19% of Salmonella serovars.
EFSA (2014): http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/3547.htm
CDC (2014): http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6315a3.htm?s_cid=mm6315a3_w
It is my understanding that proper cooking would destroy any viable salmonella. Is it possible that Americans are more susceptible because they tend to eat undercooked eggs more often than Brits? Also, I thought widespread vaccination of livestock was discouraged in the US out of fear of antibiotic resistance?
Vaccinations are not the same thing as routine antibiotics.
The yolk of the egg is an almost perfect food, as long as it is consumed RAW! When the yolk is cooked, most of the beneficial vitamins are lost. The high cholesterol in the yolk is healthful for you when it is raw, but it becomes oxidated and artery-destroying when it is cooked! I have been eating conventional American eggs over-easy at least 4 times per week since I was a young child, and I have never been sickened by them! A healthy human stomach/body can successfully deal with a million individual cells of salmonella without becoming infected. Another tip is to eat the egg first before the rest of the meal, because your stomach acid will still be strong and not diluted by the other foods or starches in the meal.
In regards to washing or not washing eggs, I recommend this document, very informative: The EFSA Journal (2005) 269, 1 of 39 Microbiological risks on washing of table eggs Opinion of the Scientific Panel on Biological Hazards on the request from the Commission related to the Microbiological risks on washing of Table Eggs (Question N° EFSA-Q-2004-031)
Adopted on 7 September 2005
Many Asians also lack our phobia for unchilled eggs. While living in Seoul, eggs we bought in the corner stores were not refrigerated. We bought just enough for that day or next morn, priced per each egg. While five months there, travelling widely, shopping and eating as Koreans, didn’t have a single case of gastrointestinal upset, even with 4 young children who ate all manner of foods throughout the country, including many room-temp eggs.
In cultures where fresh foods are purchased and cooked same or next day, long term storage is less of an issue, hence refrigerators are fewer and smaller. NYT yesterday had an interesting piece on the growth of refrigeration capacity in China. How that is changing local food cultures, but also increased emissions to run all those compressors, and the inevitable leaks of refrigerants which are potent greenhouse gases. There is no free lunch, for various costs are higher as more ingredients are chilled as certain foodways become industrialized. Yes, sanitation matters in all settings; I know Asians who contracted polio while young.
Here in the US, one can buy direct from farmers at local markets, including eggs gathered same or previous day. States vary on storage temps for eggs at market, but I’m unaware of requirements for washing when eggs not graded. We have customers who buy fertile eggs for hatching, and these we sell never refrigerated.
In certain EU countries, their flocks have been declared salmonella free, in part due to vaccines also available here. And, we may purchase pasteurized eggs in our local groceries. These have their costs, but it’s doable. Those concerned about the risks of unpasteurized milk, are you working toward increased availability and use of pasteurized eggs and salmonella-free chickens? To protect children, with their heightened risk of salmonellosis? What dent could that make in reducing current CDC figs of 23K hospitalizations and 450 deaths per year? http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/index.html