I don’t know about you, but I cringe whenever I see some prized athlete on TV slurp down a glass full of raw eggs. Because of their protein content, eggs are supposed to be a power food for people who are looking to get ripped with muscles. Some people allege that raw eggs are great for that purpose. However, a major disadvantage to eating raw eggs, besides the fact that they make some people queasy, is that raw eggs can contain the bacteria Salmonella Enteridis. Eating food that is infected with Salmonella can lead to Salmonellosis, a foodborne illness.
Salmonellosis brings with it some very unpleasant symptoms. Most people who are infected with Salmonella experience diarrhea (sometimes bloody), vomiting, fever, headaches, rose spots, and abdominal cramps. In most cases, the illness comes on from 6 to 72 hours after infection and lasts for as many as seven days. Although most healthy people can recover without treatment, some people become so dehydrated from diarrhea and vomiting that they need to be hospitalized. In especially severe cases, the bacteria can spread from the intestines to the blood stream, where it can lead to more severe problems and even death.
Proper refrigeration of eggs can significantly reduce the chance that they will become contaminated with Salmonella, but refrigeration and freezing will not kill the bacteria. That means that raw and undercooked eggs, even if they have been refrigerated, may still carry the bacteria.
Obviously, choosing not to slurp down a glass of raw eggs is one good way to avoid Salmonella poisoning. Of course, Salmonella can also reside in less obvious places, like raw cookie dough, salad dressings made with raw eggs, homemade mayonnaise, and in shakes made with eggs. Salmonella can also be spread through cross-contamination, which is why it’s important to keep cooking areas sanitary, especially after using raw eggs.
Though Salmonellosis is an unpleasant infection, it’s not dangerous for most people with healthy immune systems. However, people who are very young, very old, pregnant, or with compromised immune systems should be especially careful never to eat raw or undercooked eggs. Of course, there are always going to be people who enjoy downing whole raw eggs or eating raw cookie dough. As long as the eggs have been handled and stored properly, most of those people will probably be able to eat them without suffering through Salmonellosis. But it’s good to know about and weigh the risks first. Eating raw eggs can be serious business for some people.