In the summer of 2010, hundreds of thousands of eggs have were forcibly recalled by the federal government and voluntarily recalled by egg manufacturers as a preemptive measure against salmonella contamination.

It is important to know the most common problems associated with egg and dairy production, and how to avoid contaminated eggs and dairy products. As a general safety measure, knowing how to best store eggs and dairy, how long they can be kept safely in the refrigerator, and the safest ways to prepare them, can make for a safer and healthier kitchen.

Salmonella

The 2010 recalls of eggs were all rooted in the presence of salmonella enteritidis found on eggshells. Salmonella is a type of bacteria that can cause serious symptoms including diarrhea, vomiting, and high fever. If left untreated, salmonella may cause death, and is especially dangerous to the elderly, newborn, and those with lowered immune systems. Symptoms of salmonella usually develop between eight and 72 hours after a person is exposed to the bacteria. If you believe that you may have been exposed to salmonella it is best to seek medical help immediately.

Avoiding Contamination

The best way to avoid salmonella is to cook high-risk food thoroughly. High heat effectively kills salmonella, so even infected eggs are harmless if cooked all the way through. When cooking scrambled eggs make sure not leave them runny. When frying eggs, cook the yolk until it is hard. It is also fortunate that salmonella is found on the egg shells, rather than in the interior of the eggs themselves. This means that effectively washing your hands when handling eggs, and washing the eggs themselves, can greatly reduce the risk of exposure to salmonella. By taking extra care when making your eggs, you can all but eliminate the threat of salmonella exposure.

More Information

For more information about the recent problems associated with egg production eggsafetycenter.org has useful information concerning all contaminated eggs, brands, and regions that have been affected by salmonella contamination. There is also helpful information at the US Food and Drug Administration website, as well as the US Department of Agriculture.

Keeping Dairy Fresh

Eggs and dairy products have a relatively short shelf life. In order to best preserve eggs and milk, make sure to keep your refrigerator at a relatively cold 34 degrees. Most milk produced today is pasteurized, which means that it is heated to a temperature that effectively kills all microorganisms living in the milk. As a general rule, go by the expiration date on the milk and dairy products. Milk is usually safe to drink a day or two after the date on the package. When in doubt, smelling your milk is a nearly fool-proof way to see if it has gone sour. If it stinks, throw it out. If you’re not sure, err on the side of caution and throw it out.