Today’s post about egg and food safety is from Mary Lee Chin, MS, RD of Nutrition Edge Communications.
I had the pleasure of meeting Mary at the American Egg Board’s Good Egg Project blogger event last March in Arizona. If you want to learn more about egg nutrition, you can watch my video of Mary’s talk at the Good Egg Project event.
Safe Egg Handling 101: clean, separate, cook and chill completely
In the wake of the recent half billion egg recall, it’s a good time to revisit basic safe food handling guidelines. People are concerned and sensitized of the safety of consuming eggs. But it only takes a few simple steps to keep this nutrient dense food in our diet safely.
“Clean, separate, cook and chill will help keep not only eggs, but all foods safe in your kitchen,” says local registered dietitian Mary Lee Chin, who consults with the Egg Nutrition Center.
“I am concerned that people should not eliminate nutrient-rich eggs from their diet due to the highly publicized recall. Four simple steps can help keep this protein-rich food safely on the table,” says Chin.
Keep everything clean – hands, surfaces and utensils
First, keep everything clean. This includes washing hands and utensils that have come into contact with raw eggs (or raw foods in general). You avoid any cross contamination and that’s a good habit to get into when you handle any raw food.
How long to wash your hands? Experts recommend about 20 seconds with warm soapy water–about the length of time to sing the ABC’s as your preschoolers know.
And while not a major source of contamination, launder your reusable grocery sacks. Or designate a few reusable bags or use the plastic bags to pack foods of animal origin away from fresh fruits and vegetables.
Keep things separate
Next, keep eggs and raw food separate. Keep eggs and raw items separate in your grocery cart and bag them separate from the foods that will be consumed raw. Don’t put raw eggs or raw meat with your fruits and vegetables that you will not be cooking. Keep a separate cutting board for raw meats and another for food preparation does not require cooking, such as salads. Again, this simple step helps avoid cross contamination.
Cook your eggs properly
Cook your eggs to at least at 160 degrees Fahrenheit. This is where the egg yolk is firm. Eliminate recipes that use raw eggs such as meringues that are whipped up from raw egg whites and folded into mousses or pies for example. Pre-pasteurized egg whites are options for these recipes. Completely cooked, is completely safe.
Keep your eggs cool
Keep food well chilled. Make the grocery shopping trip the last of your errands before heading home. If you are going to be running errands after the trip to the grocery, store the perishables, including eggs, in a cooler with an ice pack, in your car.
Eggs should be stored in the refrigerator that is between 33 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep eggs in the original container in the main body of refrigerator, not on the egg carrier in the door. It is difficult to keep the temperature constant, especially if you have a family that continuously opens the refrigerator.
When you have a cooked egg or other perishable food product don’t let it sit out on the counter, put it in the refrigerator. The rule is that if perishable food is left two hours at room temperature, it should be discarded.
When cooked properly, eggs are always a safe, wholesome and convenient food for you and your family to enjoy. Eggs are all-natural and packed with a number of nutrients. One egg has 13 essential vitamins and minerals in varying amounts, high-quality protein, unsaturated fats and antioxidants, all for 70 calories.
Remember, “You can still keep nutrient rich eggs a safe part of your diet by following these simple safe food handling practices: clean, separate, cook and chill,” reminds Chin.
For more information on the salmonella egg recall and the safe handling of eggs, please visit eggsafety.org. or fightbac.org. Also check out my post, The hard boiled truth about egg safety and the salmonella recall, at Mom Central Food.