Salmonella and Eggs

What You Need to Know

  • Chickens and other live poultry can carry Salmonella bacteria.
  • These germs can spread from the birds to their eggs. If you eat raw or undercooked eggs, you can get sick.
  • Always handle and cook eggs properly to prevent illness.
Carton of eggs

Eggs are one of nature’s most nutritious and economical foods. But eggs can make you sick if you do not handle and cook them properly. That’s because eggs can be contaminated with Salmonella, which are bacteria that make people sick.

How do eggs get Salmonella on them?

Salmonella can get on the shells of eggs when birds lay eggs or when the eggs touch bird droppings (poop) after being laid. This is not a problem for commercial eggs (for example, eggs you buy at the grocery store) because companies wash eggs before they reach stores.

Salmonella also can contaminate the egg’s contents while it is forming inside the chicken before shells are formed. Today, a lot fewer egg-laying hens have this problem than during the 1980s and 1990s, so eggs are safer. But some eggs are still contaminated with Salmonella.

How can I reduce the chance of getting sick from eggs?

  • Buy eggs from stores and suppliers that keep eggs refrigerated.
  • Keep your eggs refrigeratedexternal icon at 40°F (4°C) or colder, which should be the temperature of a properly functioning refrigerator.
  • Discard cracked or dirty eggs.
  • Consider using pasteurized* eggs and egg products, which are widely available.
  • Cook eggs until both the yolk and white are firm; this happens at an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C) or hotter.
  • Use pasteurized eggs to make foods that contain raw or lightly cooked eggs, such as hollandaise sauce, Caesar salad dressing, and tiramisu.
  • Eat or refrigerate eggs and foods containing eggs promptly after cooking. Refrigerate them within 2 hours, or 1 hour if the eggs are exposed to temperatures above 90°F (like a hot car or picnic).
  • Use soap and water to wash hands and items that come into contact with raw eggs. These items include countertops, utensils, dishes, and cutting boards.
  • Do not taste or eat dough or batter made with raw eggs, such as cookie dough or cake.

*Pasteurization is the process of heating eggs to a high enough temperature for a long enough time to kill germs that can make you sick. Pasteurized eggs have gone through this process.

Salmonella illness can be serious and is more dangerous for certain people.

Most people who get sick from Salmonella have diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps.

Symptoms usually begin 6 hours to 6 days after infection and last 4 to 7 days. People with diarrhea should drink extra fluids.

Most people recover without specific treatment and should not take antibiotics. Antibiotics are typically used only to treat people who have, or are at risk for, severe illness. Rarely, Salmonella spreads to the bloodstream and causes a life-threatening infection.

Some groups of people are more likely to get infected and get seriously ill. These groups include children younger than 5 years, adults 65 years and older, and people who have health problemsexternal icon or take medicines that lower the body’s ability to fight germs and sickness (weakened immune system).

Should I call the doctor?

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Diarrhea that doesn’t improve after 2 days
  • Vomiting that lasts more than 2 days
  • Signs of dehydration, including little or no urination, excessive thirst, a very dry mouth, dizziness or lightheadedness, or very dark urine
  • Fever higher than 102°F (39°C)
  • Bloody stools (poop)

Call your child’s doctor if your child has:

  • Diarrhea that doesn’t improve after 1 day
  • Vomiting that lasts more than
    • 12 hours for infants,
    • 1 day for children younger than 2 years, or
    • 2 days for other children
  • Signs of dehydration, including not urinating in 3 or more hours, dry mouth or tongue, or crying without tears
  • Fever higher than 102°F (39°C)
  • Bloody stools
Baby Chicks and Salmonella: Tyler’s Story
Erika and Tyler

Tyler and his parents enjoy fresh eggs from their backyard chickens. But the family changed how they handle their chickens after Tyler got sick with Salmonella.

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Family in a kitchen preparing food

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