In this article, I will answer the question: “Can you eat pasteurized eggs raw?” and I will present the risks related to consumption of unpasteurized eggs.
Can you eat pasteurized eggs raw?
Yes, you can eat pasteurized eggs raw. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), if raw in-shell eggs are pasteurized, they are considered safe to eat. Salmonella, a type of pathogenic bacteria that can cause food poisoning, may be present in raw eggs. Using pasteurized eggs reduces the risk of catching Salmonella.
What are the health benefits of raw eggs?
Eggs are high in protein and other vitamins when eaten raw. They include fatty acids that can aid your metabolism. They include the majority of necessary amino acids: one egg offers 27% of daily choline needs.
Calcium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin A, and vitamin D are all abundant in raw eggs.
One raw egg provides: 72 calories, 6 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat, and 186 milligrams of cholesterol.
Raw eggs contain several vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Lutein and zeaxanthin are two antioxidants that protect your eyes and reduce the risk of eye illnesses.
Furthermore, raw eggs can:
- Help your heart: HDL, or “good” cholesterol, is abundant in eggs. HDL cholesterol protects your heart from LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol). Eggs also include fatty acids such as Omega-3s, which help to lower bad cholesterol levels.
- Make your brain work more efficiently: Choline levels in eggs are high, which is crucial for brain function.
- Boost your immune system’s defenses: Eggs contain high levels of vitamin A and vitamin B-12, as well as other minerals and antioxidants that contribute to a healthy immune system.
Eating raw eggs provides many health benefits. The most concerning risk of raw eggs is bacterial contamination, which could result in a Salmonella infection. Eating pasteurized eggs reduces the risk of contracting an infection. There is also scientific evidence that eggs contain other biologically active compounds that may have a role in the therapy and prevention of chronic and infectious diseases. The presence of compounds with antimicrobial, immunomodulator, antioxidant, anti-cancer or anti-hypertensive properties have been reported in eggs. Lysozyme, ovomucoid, ovoinhibitor and cystatin are biologically active proteins in egg albumen, and their activity prolongs the shelf life of table eggs. Some of these protective substances are isolated and produced on an industrial scale as lysozymes and avidin. Additionally, eggs are an important source of lecithin and are one of the few food sources that contain high concentrations of choline (4).
What are the risks related to unpasteurized eggs?
Salmonella, the most common cause of food illness in the United States, can be found in eggs. Cooking destroys Salmonella bacteria, however there are still two issues:
- Uncooked eggs are required in some recipes, such as eggnog, spaghetti carbonara, Caesar salad dressing and homemade ice cream.
- Cross contamination is a possibility even while cooking eggs. Particles of raw egg on your hands or cutting board can be transferred to other surfaces and increase the risk of Salmonella related infections.
According to the FDA, approximately 79,000 people get food poisoning and 30 people die each year from eating Salmonella-contaminated eggs (3).
Salmonella contamination of chicken eggs is influenced by a variety of factors, including the following: the number of chickens in the flock; the flock’s age; the birds’ stress levels; their food; the vaccines they get and the hygiene conditions. 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 required to be washed at the processing plant. All USDA graded eggs and most large volume processors follow the washing step with a sanitizing rinse at the processing plant (1).
Salmonella infection, commonly known as salmonellosis, can be contracted by eating raw or undercooked eggs. Salmonella infection symptoms appear 12 to 72 hours after ingesting contaminated food, according to the FDA.
Salmonella infection can cause the following symptoms in people: Diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, and vomiting are all symptoms of a bacterial infection.
The FDA also warns that Salmonella infection is more likely to affect infants, children, the elderly, and pregnant women.
Foodborne infections are also more likely to affect people who have a weakened immune system. Untreated raw eggs should be avoided by anyone with diabetes, cancer, HIV or AIDS, or those who have had organ transplants.
Another important human-health risk related to egg consumption is the potential presence of residues of veterinary drugs, because laying hens treated with pharmaceutical products can produce contaminated eggs. Certain habits can also compromise health by being a source of exposure to environmental contaminants. Many of these potentially toxic pollutants are fat soluble, and thus, any fatty foods (including eggs) may often contain high levels of persistent organic pollutants or dioxins, that are usually present even in free-range and organic eggs. Additionally, egg allergies represent one of the most common IgE-mediated food allergies in infants and young children (4).
Pasteurized eggs are a solution to limit Salmonella-related diseases.
What is pasteurization?
Pasteurization is defined as the process of heating a product to 145 degrees for 30 minutes or 161 degrees for 15 seconds, then rapidly chilling the liquid for refrigeration, according to the Epicurious Food Dictionary. The method eliminates harmful microbes and improves food safety. Pasteurization was first developed by French scientist Louis Pasteur to purify milk, but it is currently used to pasteurize a wide range of foods, including eggs.
In the United States, the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF) has determined the requisite scientific parameters for establishing equivalent alternative methods of pasteurization, and defined pasteurization as “Any process, treatment, or combination thereof that is applied to food to reduce the most resistant microorganism(s) of public health significance to a level that is not likely to present a public health risk under normal conditions of distribution and storage” (2).
How are eggs pasteurized?
Egg products are pasteurized in special egg-processing facilities. The egg products are quickly heated to a low temperature and held there for a period of time. The eggs are heated sufficiently to destroy the bacteria but not sufficiently to cook the egg. The taste, texture, or baking qualities of the egg product are not altered by pasteurization.
Shell egg pasteurization equipment is not accessible for home use, and performing pasteurization of shell eggs at home without heating the contents of the egg is extremely difficult.
There are other methods to pasteurize eggs in the shell. The technologies used to pasteurize eggs are hot water immersion or hot air, or a combination of these two at 55–58 °C to shell eggs, or radio frequency in combination with how water immersion. The radio frequency power supply is customized to 40.68 MHz, which, unlike 60 MHz, is a frequency reserved by the United Nations for industrial application. By this method, pasteurization (> 5 log kill of Salmonella) could be completed in 19.5 min, with 4.5 min of RF treatment at 35W in 38 °C water and 15 min of hot water immersion at 56.7 °C. Radio frequency is the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum ranging from 3 kHz to 300 MHz. Radio frequency heating drastically reduces the pasteurization time compared to traditional heating because it selectively heats the egg yolk rather than transferring heat from egg shell to albumen and then to yolk. Egg yolk is the target site for pasteurization due to the fact that it is more favorable for Salmonella growth and it renders the pathogens greater thermotolerance (3).
Some grocery stores now sell pasteurized shell eggs, which must be kept refrigerated to maintain freshness.
How to properly store pasteurized eggs?
According to the USDA, pasteurized in-shell eggs should be kept in the refrigerator and used within three to five weeks. Refrigerate unopened pasteurized liquid egg substitutes for up to 10 days; use opened cartons within three days of opening. It is not recommended to freeze egg substitutes; nevertheless, egg products purchased frozen can be kept in the freezer for up to one year.
Other FAQs about Eggs that you may be interested in.
In this essay, I answered the question: “Can you eat pasteurized eggs raw?” and I explained the risks related to eating raw unpasteurized eggs, and the main tips to properly store pasteurized eggs.
Feel free to contact me for any further request related to this subject.
- Shell eggs from farm to table. United States Department of Agriculture.
- Peng, Jing, et al. Thermal pasteurization of ready-to-eat foods and vegetables: Critical factors for process design and effects on quality. Critic rev food sci nutr, 2017, 57, 2970-2995.
- Yang, Yishan, and David J. Geveke. Shell egg pasteurization using radio frequency in combination with hot air or hot water. Food Microbiol, 2020, 85, 103281.
- Miranda, Jose M., et al. Egg and egg-derived foods: effects on human health and use as functional foods. Nutrients, 2015, 7, 706-729.