When eaten in moderation, eggs can be part of a healthy diet for most people. Good nutrients in eggs include protein, selenium, riboflavin, choline, phosphorus, iron, lutein and zeaxanthin, and vitamins D, A, and B12. Eggs also contain saturated fat and are high in cholesterol. National dietary guidelines say a healthy person can eat one egg per day without increasing blood cholesterol levels or the risk of heart disease. Healthy people should eat less than 300 milligrams of total dietary cholesterol a day. Eating less than 200 milligrams of cholesterol a day can help people at high risk of heart disease. One large egg contains about 185 milligrams of cholesterol.
The egg yolk contains many of the good nutrients and all the saturated fat and cholesterol. If you like eggs but don't want the extra saturated fat and cholesterol, use only the eggs whites or an egg substitute. Ask your health care provider how eggs fit best in your diet, especially if you have high cholesterol or are at high risk for heart disease.
Safe Handling, Cooking, and Storing
Eggs can be contaminated with bacteria, such as Salmonella, that can cause illness in people. Bacteria can be on the outside or inside of the shell. To prevent egg-related illness, you should know how to buy, store, handle, and cook eggs (or foods that contain them) safely.
- Buy refrigerated eggs.
- Open the carton to make sure eggs are clean and the shells are not cracked.
- Refrigerate the eggs promptly when you get home.
- Store eggs in their original carton and use them within 3 weeks for best quality.
- Wash hands, utensils, equipment, and work surfaces with hot, soapy water before and after they come in contact with eggs and egg-containing foods. Disinfect food contact surfaces using a sanitizing agent, such as bleach, following label instructions.
- Cook the eggs until both the white and yolk are firm.
- If undercooked eggs are preferred (prepared sunny-side-up or over-easy), use pasteurized eggs. Young children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems shouldn't eat raw or undercooked eggs.
- Casseroles and other dishes containing eggs should be cooked to 160 degrees F. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature.
- Eating or tasting unbaked products that are intended to be cooked, such as dough or batter, can make you sick. Learn more (CDC).
- For recipes that call for raw or undercooked eggs, such Caesar salad dressing, ice cream, or eggnog, do one of the following:
- Heat the eggs in one of the recipe's other liquid ingredients over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F. Then combine it with the other ingredients and complete the recipe.
- Use pasteurized eggs or egg products.
Serving and Storing
- Eat eggs and egg-containing foods soon after cooking them. Promptly refrigerate leftovers.
- Don't allow eggs, including hard-boiled eggs, and egg dishes to sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours - either reheat, refrigerate, or throw away. Bacteria can grow on foods left out in temperatures from 40-140 degrees F.
- For potlucks, picnics, or other events away from home, keep hot egg dishes hot, and cold egg dishes cold. Covers help maintain safe temperatures. Transport cold egg dishes in a cooler with frozen gel packs and place cold dishes in a bowl of ice when serving. Use warming trays for hot egg dishes. Reheat, cool, or throw away egg dishes before they sit out longer than 2 hours.
- Use refrigerated left-over egg dishes within 3-4 days. Use hard-boiled eggs within 1 week after cooking. For other types of egg products, see Egg Storage Chart, FoodSafety.gov.
The egg industry and government agencies are continually working to reduce or eliminate egg-related Salmonella illness. There is a very low risk of an egg being contaminated with Salmonella. Large commercial producers are required to regularly test hen houses for Salmonella, keep rodents and other sources of contamination out of hen houses, wash and sanitize the eggs and facilities, store eggs at temperatures that help prevent Salmonella growth, and get chicks that are National Poultry Improvement Plan approved. Consumers play an important role in preventing foodborne illness from bacteria like Salmonella by handling, cooking, and storing eggs safely.
Raising chickens or other poultry for their eggs can be rewarding. Raising poultry isn't just happening in rural areas. A growing number of urban areas allow backyard flocks. Check your local city or county land use laws on raising poultry. It's important to keep your birds, and you and your family, healthy. Our advice focuses on preventing the spread of bacteria like Salmonella.
Prevent Salmonella in Poultry
- Chicks and ducklings often carry Salmonella, so buy chicks only from a reputable breeder or hatchery that is National Poultry Improvement Plan approved.
- Thoroughly clean and disinfect bird houses and equipment at least once a year or between new flocks.
- Keep feed in a sealed dry container.
- Clean waterers and feeders regularly. Place feeders and waterers high enough (about the birds shoulder) to help keep feces and dirt out.
- Reduce stress and illness by giving each bird enough nest and living space. Immediately remove sick, injured, or dead birds from the flock.
- Routinely clean and line nest boxes with fresh litter.
- Control rodents and insect pests.
- Collect eggs often and refrigerate.
- Discard cracked, leaking, or very dirty eggs.
Prevent Salmonella in People
- Always wash hands after handling eggs, poultry, or anything in the bird's environment. Learn more about Salmonella from chicks and ducklings.
- Supervise younger children closely when they gather eggs or touch potentially contaminated equipment. Make sure they wash their hands afterwards.
- Don't wash poultry feeders and water containers in the kitchen sink.
- Dirt and feces on the egg can be cleaned with fine sandpaper, a brush, or damp cloth. If washed, the temperature of the water should be slightly warmer than the egg. An egg washing solution or a dishwashing liquid that is scent and dye free is acceptable. Eggs can be sanitized by dipping in a solution of bleach (1 part bleach, 9 parts water). Dry the eggs before storing in the refrigerator.
- Avoid contaminating countertops or other foods by placing eggs in a covered container in the refrigerator.
- Follow safe egg handling, cooking, and storing practices.
- Tips to Reduce Your Risk of Salmonella from Eggs, CDC
- Egg Products Preparation, USDA
- Backyard Poultry, Public Health-Seattle & King County
Content Source: Food Safety Program, Zoonotic Disease Program