Monday, September 27, 2010


No matter what improvements are made in egg production, the likelihood is that SE will never be completely wiped out of our eggs. There will always be the chance that SE-infected pullets will slip through the net, that contaminated feed will turn up again, that SE-infected rats will contaminate the laying environment, or, that something similar will happen. As a result, we can basically assume that a small fraction of all our shell eggs will always be infected with SE. Given past experience, we can also assume that there will be periods of time when that number will increase dramatically as there is an up-surge in SE infection among laying hens.

Whether we get sick from SE in our eggs will depend on four basic things: how vulnerable we are, how many eggs we eat, where we eat them and how we eat them. Let's turn to the "how" and "where." As we know by now, undercooked eggs and undercooked egg-containing dishes are the risky ones. Studies suggest that fried eggs (sunny-side up) are about the riskiest of all. The safest - well done eggs, pasteurized eggs (even if underdone), and egg dishes and egg-containing dishes made with pasteurized egg product.

As for high-risk places, the worst ones are institutional food-service (such as nursing homes, residential dining rooms, schools, hospitals) and restaurants or other places such as conventions, receptions, where eggs are pooled and large quantities of food are prepared, often in advance. Many institutional food-services have begun to use pasteurized egg products - which are easier to store and use, as well as safer. So have a large percentage of restaurants, but not all. After all, whole eggs taste better. Some restaurants do use pasteurized eggs, but their higher price is a negative.

Studies of egg use in restaurants have also shown that a large percentage continue to have practices that would help any bacteria in the eggs to multiply (such as leaving an omelet mix, or egg-containing dessert mix at room temperature for a while). It could well be that it is getting increasingly less safe to eat out at a good restaurant (more likely to use whole eggs than is a cheap one) than to eat in a nursing home.

Hyvää ruokahalua! (as they say in Finnland)

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