All About Eggs

How Does Salmonella Infect Eggs?
What Part Carries Bacteria?
Who is "At Risk" for Eating Raw or Undercooked Eggs?

Can Shell Eggs Be Pasteurized?
Are Powdered Egg Whites Pasteurized?
What Points Should You Consider When Buying Eggs?
Is Grading of Eggs Mandatory?
What Are Egg Grades?
Sizing of Eggs

Dating of Cartons
What Are Thousand-Year-Old Eggs?
Do Pickled Eggs Keep a Long Time?
Bringing Eggs Home from the Store
Why Should Eggs Be Refrigerated?
Should You Wash Eggs?
Why Do Hard-Cooked Eggs Spoil Faster than Fresh Eggs?

Is It Safe to Use Eggs That Have Cracks?
How Are Eggs Handled Safely?
Does the Color of the Shell Affect the Egg's Nutrients?
Are Fertilized Eggs More Nutritious?
Is the Appearance of Eggs Related to Food Safety?
How Do Time and Refrigeration Affect Egg Quality?
What Does It Mean When an Egg Floats in Water?

Safe Cooking Methods
Use Safe Egg Recipes

· Eggs are among the most nutritious foods on earth and can be part of a healthy diet. However, they are perishable just like raw meat, poultry, and fish. Unbroken, clean, fresh shell eggs may contain Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. While the number of eggs affected is quite small, there have been cases of foodborne illness in the last few years. To be safe, eggs must be properly handled, refrigerated, and cooked.

How Does Salmonella Infect Eggs?
Bacteria can be on the outside of a shell egg. That's because the egg exits the hen's body through the same passageway as feces is excreted. That's why eggs are washed and sanitized at the processing plant. Bacteria can be inside an uncracked, whole egg. Contamination of eggs may be due to bacteria within the hen's ovary or oviduct before the shell forms around the yolk and white. SE doesn't make the hen sick. It is also possible for eggs to become infected by Salmonella Enteritidis fecal contamination through the pores of the shells after they're laid.

What Part Carries Bacteria?
Researchers say that, if present, the SE is usually in the yolk or "yellow." However, they can't rule out the bacteria being in egg whites. So everyone is advised against eating raw or undercooked egg yolks and whites or products containing raw or undercooked eggs.

Who is "At Risk" for Eating Raw or Undercooked Eggs?
People with health problems, the very young, senior citizens, and pregnant women (the risk is to the unborn child) are particularly vulnerable to SE infections. A chronic illness weakens the immune system, making the person vulnerable to foodborne illnesses. No one should eat foods containing raw eggs. This includes "health food" milk shakes made with raw eggs, Caesar salad, Hollandaise sauce, and any other foods like homemade mayonnaise, ice cream, or eggnog made from recipes in which the egg ingredients are not cooked. However, in-shell pasteurized eggs may be used safely without cooking.

Can Shell Eggs Be Pasteurized?
Shell eggs can be pasteurized by a processor if FDA approves the process. Pasteurized shell eggs are available in some parts of the country, but are not yet available nationwide. Also, the equipment necessary to pasteurize eggs isn't available for home use, and it's not possible to pasteurize eggs in the home.

Are Powdered Egg Whites Pasteurized?
Yes. Egg white powder is dried egg white (pure albumen). It can be reconstituted by mixing the powder with water. The reconstituted powder whips like fresh egg white and, because it is pasteurized, can be used safely without cooking or baking it. The product is usually sold along with supplies for cake baking and decorating.

What Points Should You Consider When Buying Eggs?
Always purchase eggs from a refrigerated case. Choose eggs with clean, uncracked shells. Don't buy out-of-date eggs. Look for the USDA grade shield or mark. Graded eggs must meet standards for quality and size. Choose the size most useful and economical for you.

Is Grading of Eggs Mandatory?
USDA's grading service is voluntary; egg packers who request it, pay for it. The USDA grade shield on the carton means that the eggs were graded for quality and checked for weight (size) under the supervision of a trained USDA grader. Compliance with quality standards, grades, and weights is monitored by USDA. State agencies monitor compliance for egg packers who do not use the USDA grading service. These cartons will bear a term such as "Grade A" on their cartons without the USDA shield.

What Are Egg Grades?
There are three consumer grades for eggs: U.S. Grade AA, A, and B. The grade is determined by the interior quality of the egg and the appearance and condition of the egg shell. Eggs of any quality grade may differ in weight (size).
  • U.S. Grade AA eggs have whites that are thick and firm; yolks that are high, round, and practically free from defects; and clean, unbroken shells. Grade AA and Grade A eggs are best for frying and poaching where appearance is important, and for any other purpose.
  • U.S. Grade A eggs have characteristics of Grade AA eggs except that the whites are "reasonably" firm. This is the quality most often sold in stores.
  • U.S. Grade B eggs have whites that may be thinner and yolks that may be wider and flatter than eggs of higher grades. The shells must be unbroken, but may show slight stains. This quality is seldom found in retail stores because they are usually used to make liquid, frozen, and dried egg products.

Sizing of Eggs
Size tells you the minimum required net weight per dozen eggs. It does not refer to the dimensions of an egg or how big it looks. While some eggs in the carton may look slightly larger or smaller than the rest, it is the total weight of the dozen eggs that puts them in one of the following classes:

Size or Weight Class Minimum net weight per dozen
Jumbo 30 ounces
Extra Large 27 ounces
Large 24 ounces
Medium 21 ounces
Small 18 ounces
Peewee 15 ounces

Dating of Cartons
Many eggs reach stores only a few days after the hen lays them. Egg cartons with the USDA grade shield on them must display the "pack date" (the day that the eggs were washed, graded, and placed in the carton). The number is a three-digit code that represents the consecutive day of the year (the "Julian Date") starting with January 1 as 001 and ending with December 31 as 365.

Always purchase eggs before the "Sell-By" or "EXP" (expiration) date on the carton. After the eggs reach home, they may be refrigerated 3 to 5 weeks from the day they are placed in the refrigerator. The "Sell-By" date will usually expire during that length of time, but the eggs are perfectly safe to use. This date is not federally required, but may be State required.

What Are Thousand-Year-Old Eggs?
These Chinese eggs are not really 1,000 years old, but are somewhere between a month and several years old. The egg is not retained in its original state, but rather converted into an entirely different food, probably by bacterial action. They are exempt from inspection and grading. The following are several types of thousand-year-old Chinese eggs.

"Hulidan" results when eggs are individually coated with a mixture of salt and wet clay or ashes for a month. This process darkens and partially solidifies the yolks, and gives the eggs a salty taste.

"Dsaudan" eggs are packed in cooked rice and salt for at least 6 months. During this time, the shell softens, the membranes thicken, and the egg contents coagulate. The flavor is wine-like.

"Pidan," a great delicacy, is made by covering eggs with lime, salt, wood ashes, and a tea infusion for 5 months or more. The egg yolks become greenish gray and the albumen turns into a coffee-brown jelly. Pidan smell ammonia-like and taste like lime.

Do Pickled Eggs Keep a Long Time?
Pickled eggs are hard-cooked eggs marinated in vinegar and pickling spices, spicy cider, or juice from pickles or pickled beets. Studies done at the American Egg Board substantiate that unopened containers of brined eggs- marinated, hard-cooked eggs-keep for several months on the shelf. After opening, keep refrigerated.

Egg Storage Chart
Product Refrigerator Freezer
Raw eggs in shell 3 to 5 weeks Do not freeze.
Raw egg whites 2 to 4 days 12 months.
Raw egg yolks 2 to 4 days Yolks do not freeze well.
Raw egg accidentally frozen in shell Use immediately after thawing. Keep frozen; then refrigerate to thaw.
Hard-cooked eggs 1 week Do not freeze.
Egg substitutes, liquid Unopened 10 days Do not freeze.
Egg substitutes, liquid Opened 3 days Do not freeze.
Egg substitutes, frozen Unopened After thawing, 7 days, or refer to "Use-By" date on carton. 12 months
Egg substitutes, frozen Opened After thawing, 3 days, or refer to "Use-By" date on carton. Do not freeze.
Casseroles made with eggs 3 to 4 days After baking, 2 to 3 months.
Eggnog, commercial 3 to 5 days 6 months
Eggnog, homemade 2 to 4 days Do not freeze.
Pies, pumpkin or pecan 3 to 4 days After baking, 1 to 2 months.
Pies, custard and chiffon 3 to 4 days Do not freeze.
Quiche with any kind of filling 3 to 4 days After baking, 1 to 2 months. - USDA facts sheet - American egg board

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