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Salmonella in Eggs: An Unwelcome Summer Visitor

Salmonella in Eggs: An Unwelcome Summer Visitor

Summer is the perfect season for Salmonella, a germ that commonly causes foodborne illness--sometimes called food poisoning. Warm weather and unrefrigerated eggs or food made from raw or undercooked eggs create ideal conditions for Salmonella to grow. Many germs grow to high numbers in just a few hours at room temperature.

Wondering if you have Salmonella food poisoning?

See your doctor or healthcare provider if you have:

  • Diarrhea along with a temperature over 101.5°F
  • Diarrhea for more than 3 days that is not improving
  • Bloody stools
  • Prolonged vomiting that prevents you from keeping liquids down
  • Signs of dehydration, such as
    • Making very little urine
    • Dry mouth and throat, and
    • Dizziness when standing up

Although anyone can get Salmonella food poisoning, older adults, infants, and people with weakened immune systems are at increased risk for serious illness. A person infected with Salmonella usually has a fever, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea beginning 12 to 72 hours after consuming a contaminated food or beverage. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without antibiotic treatment. But, in rare cases, people become seriously ill.

In the United States, Salmonella infection causes more hospitalizations and deaths than any other germ found in food, resulting in $365 million in direct medical costs annually.

Salmonella can be sneaky

You can get Salmonella from perfectly normal-looking eggs. Salmonella can live on both the outside and inside of eggs that appear to be normal. Chicken feces on the outside of egg shells used to be a common cause of Salmonella contamination. To counter that, regulators in the 1970s put strict procedures into place for cleaning and inspecting eggs. Now, Salmonella is sometimes found on the inside of eggs; it gets there as the egg is forming.

Good news for egg lovers

Professionals from public health, government, and the food industry are continually working to reduce the risks of Salmonella in eggs. Here are just a few contributions made thus far:

Be proactive. Reduce your risk.

Salmonella can contaminate more than poultry and eggs. It sneaks its way into many foods—ground beef, pork, tomatoes, sprouts—even peanut butter. Here are six tips to make eggs and other foods safer to eat.

  1. Like other perishable foods, keep eggs refrigerated at or below 40° F (4° C) at all times. Buy eggs only from stores or other suppliers that keep them refrigerated.
  2. Discard cracked or dirty eggs.
  3. Did You Know?

    Eating raw or undercooked eggs can be especially dangerous for young children, pregnant women, older adults, and those with weakened immune systems.

  4. Do not keep eggs or other foods warm or at room temperature for more than two hours.
  5. Refrigerate unused or leftover foods promptly.
  6. Avoid restaurant dishes made with raw or lightly cooked unpasteurized eggs. Although restaurants should use pasteurized eggs in any recipe containing raw or lightly cooked eggs --such as Hollandaise sauce or Caesar salad dressing—ask to be sure.
  7. Consider buying and using shell eggs and egg products that are pasteurized. These are available for purchase from certain stores and suppliers.
 

More Information

For more information about Salmonella, foodborne illness, and food safety, call 1-800-CDC-INFO, e-mail cdcinfo@cdc.gov, or visit these web sites:

  • Page last reviewed: June 28, 2013
  • Page last updated: June 28, 2013
  • Content source:
    • Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
    • Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
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