Can you eat raw eggs?
Ever since Rocky started guzzling eggs in the 1976 classic, raw eggs have been a popular food among bodybuilders and athletes. Despite this, many non-athletes are hesitant about consuming uncooked eggs because of the risk of food poisoning.
Australian Eggs is dedicated to delivering you the best information about eggs and we’ve outlined the pros and cons of eating raw eggs below to help you decide if it’s worth it.
Is It Safe to Eat Raw Eggs?
It’s safe to consume raw eggs as long as some basic precautions are followed and the risks are understood. With any egg, there is always a low level risk of Salmonella bacteria being present on the eggshell exterior. This has nothing to do with free-range versus cage, or commercial egg farm versus backyard chook, it’s a risk that exists in all poultry products.
The most important thing to know is that raw eggs should be consumed immediately after preparing them. When an egg is cracked, there is a risk that any Salmonella bacteria on the shell can touch the egg white and end up in the bowl. This risk grows when a piece of broken egg shell falls into the raw egg or eggs are separated by passing the yolk back and forth between two shell halves.
Bacteria such as Salmonella need time to grow (replicate) so how quickly you eat the food and whether it’s refrigerated before and after really matters. Very small numbers of bacteria in raw eggs are unlikely to cause food poisoning because human stomach acid will overpower it. However, if a raw egg dish sits on the bench for several hours, the bacterial load will increase and so will the risk of serious food poisoning.
So, cracking an egg into a cup and drinking it is low risk but cracking an egg into a cup, dropping some shell in it, picking the shell out with your fingers and drinking it after two hours on the bench is high risk.
Are Raw Eggs Safe for Children, the Elderly or Pregnant Women?
Vulnerable people or those with compromised immune systems - including children, pregnant women, and elderly people - should not eat foods that contain raw eggs.
Eggs are an important addition to the diets of children, pregnant women and the elderly as they are full of vitamins, minerals and high quality protein. But they should always be cooked properly to eliminate any risk of food poisoning.
What about raw egg dishes like mayonnaise?
It’s fine to make your own mayonnaise and aioli at home providing you take precautions. Only small amounts should be prepared at a time and enough vinegar or lemon juice must be added to acidify the sauce to a pH of 4.2 or less. It’s important to eat it within a day of making and store in the fridge when not using. Leaving homemade mayonnaise or aioli to sit on the bench at room temperature is very risky.
For desserts containing raw egg like tiramisu and chocolate mousse, it is best to separate the egg white and yolk with an egg separator rather than with the shell halves. It’s ok to use that method for baked goods but an egg separator is a safer option for uncooked desserts. Again, it is important to refrigerate immediately and consume within a day of making.
When making raw egg dishes, it is especially important to not use cracked or dirty eggs. Only use clean eggs that have been refrigerated and are within the best before date.
Is There a Salmonella Risk?
The risk is low as Australia has strict food safety laws and strong state agencies with responsibility for regulating our food system. Egg farmers also do everything they can to supply safe, clean, and fresh eggs. But despite this, it is still possible for eggs to become contaminated by Salmonella and people should take precautions.
Salmonella is a food poisoning bacteria that can be killed instantly at 74°C so eggs will always be safe when cooked properly. Dishes containing uncooked eggs are more susceptible to Salmonella bacteria and need to be prepared and stored carefully.
Salmonella risk can be minimised by throwing out cracked or dirty eggs, storing them immediately and safely in the fridge inside the carton they came in, and throwing out any eggs once they reach their best before date.
The Benefits and Disadvantages of Eating Raw Eggs
Eggs are one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat as they are packed with 11 different vitamins and nutrients and contain very high quality protein. And because of their excellent protein profile, raw egg whites have always been popular with athletes and bodybuilders.
But drinking or eating raw eggs offers no major advantages over eating poached or boiled eggs. Despite raw eggs containing slightly more nutrients, the nutrients in cooked eggs are in fact easier for your body to digest and absorb.
One study found that the body is able to absorb 90% of the protein found in cooked eggs compared to only 50% in raw eggs.
So Should You Eat Raw Eggs?
While it’s generally safe to consume raw eggs, there are very few reasons to do so. Raw eggs typically contain the same benefits as cooked eggs but they don’t aid nutrient absorption quite as well.
Eating raw eggs also comes with a small risk of Salmonella food poisoning; however, there are steps you can take to minimise this risk to a very low level.
Children, pregnant women, elderly people, and others with weak immune systems should definitely avoid raw eggs. But for anyone else, it comes down to understanding the risks and making your own decisions.
Would you like more nutritional information about eating eggs? Australian Eggs has created a hub dedicated to answering all your queries about eggs and nutrition.
TIPS FOR HANDLING RAW EGGS
As much as possible, consume raw eggs foods immediately after preparing them.
Only keep raw egg dishes for one day and refrigerate at all times. Time spent at room temperature is bacteria’s best friend.
Wash your hands with soap and water after handling uncooked eggs so there is no risk of transferring bacteria from the eggshell surface to other foods in the kitchen.
If some shell falls into the bowl of eggs you plan to eat uncooked, it’s safest to throw it out and start again.
Don’t buy cracked or dirty eggs and if one cracks while you’re transporting them home, it’s safest to throw it out.
Store your eggs in the fridge, inside the carton you purchased them in. This will keep the eggs fresh for longer and allow you to check the best before date on the box.
Throw out any eggs past their best before date.