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Eggs and salmonella infection

Eggs are nutritious foods and formed an important part of our diet.  However, eggs that are improperly handled can be a source of foodborne diseases, such as salmonellosis.  During the 3 years from 2010 to 2012, a total of 291 food poisoning cases related to food premises were suspected to be caused by salmonella infection.  Among these 291 cases, 83 cases (about 30%) were related to the consumption of eggs or egg products.  Undercooking of eggs or egg products and using raw eggs in preparation of the incriminated food items were two common contributory factors to these food poisoning cases.  Some food items, such as mango pudding, Tiramisu, and mayonnaise may contain raw eggs as an ingredient and be contaminated with salmonella bacteria.

Both the outside and the inside of eggs can be contaminated with pathogens.  Egg shells can be contaminated with faecal matter and the pathogens may enter through pores or cracks on shell of eggs.  Moreover, pathogens can be introduced to the egg from infected reproductive tissues of poultry prior to shell formation. Eggs contaminated with pathogens may look normal.  Members of the public and trade are advised to take note of the following food safety tips:

Advice to the trade

  • Purchase eggs from reliable sources.
  • Observe the expiry date on the package/label of eggs and store eggs under refrigeration.
  • As a general rule, shell eggs need not be washed.  However, if eggs are soiled with faecal matter, they can be washed and should be used immediately.
  • Choose pasteurised eggs or egg products or dried egg powder to prepare dishes not requiring further heat treatment, in particular ready-to-eat desserts.
  • Avoid using cracked eggs as they are more likely to be contaminated and thus present a higher health risk.

Advice to the consumers

  • Purchase eggs from reliable sources.
  • Observe the expiry date on the package/label of eggs and store eggs under refrigeration.
  • As a general rule, shell eggs need not be washed.  However, if eggs are soiled with faecal matter, they can be washed and should be used immediately.
  • Avoid eating raw or undercooked eggs and their products, particularly for the vulnerable groups such as the elderly, infants and young children, pregnant women and immuno-compromised people. Check with food premises whether the dishes contain raw eggs, if necessary.
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Last Revision Date : 02-09-2013