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Grandma’s Eggnog May Need Safety Update

Some of the most popular holiday foods, such as eggnog and French toast, feature undercooked eggs as a key ingredient.  But does the risk of Salmonella in raw eggs make “nog” a no-go?

“Here’s the dilemma consumers are facing: This time of year, recipes come out of the woodwork. They’re taking another look at those recipes and saying ‘Hey, these don’t meet today’s food safety standards,'” says Elisa Maloberti, director of Egg Product Marketing at the American Egg Board. 

The concern is that Grandma’s family eggnog recipe might not be considered safe anymore. While only 1 in every 20,000 eggs contains Salmonella, no one wants to spend their holiday in the hospital.

Pasteurized shelled eggs are becoming increasingly available (one brand is called Safest Choice); however all consumers may not have ready access to them. 

But don’t put away your nutmeg (or your rum) just yet.  It turns out that as long as the right precautions are taken, raw eggs can be used safely in liquid form.

 
Maloberti says the key is to heat raw eggs to 160 degrees Fahrenheit in order to kill all bacteria.

The savvy egg-eater might point out that a runny egg becomes an omelet when heated to this temperature; and he or she would be right.  However, Maloberti explains, a simple addition can solve this problem.  Eggs harden when their proteins coagulate, so in order for them to stay runny, their proteins must remain separate.  This can be achieved by diluting the egg with a substance like milk or sugar.

“The magic number is two tablespoons of sugar per white,” Maloberti says.  When cooking yolks and whites together, the American Egg board says to add ΒΌ cup of liquid or sugar per egg.  This mixture can then be heated to 160 degrees and will not harden.

Maloberti recently received a call from a woman worried about making French silk pie, a no-bake dessert containing eggs.  Maloberti told her that by combining the eggs, sugar and chocolate squares and heating them to 160 degrees before adding the creamed butter, she would not only make a pasteurized pie, but would save herself the step of melting the chocolate.

Explains Maloberti, “We didn’t change her recipe.  We just combined the ingredients in a different order.”

Maloberti stands behind the safety of the technique she teaches: “I have done this, and I can tell you first hand, without a doubt, I’m 100 percent confident that these methods work.”

Not surprisingly, this food-safety method is effective beyond its use in custards and holiday pies.  It can be used year-round when making ice cream, Caesar salad dressing, or any other food containing raw eggs.  Maloberti says the necessary step is adding the recipe’s liquid or sugar ingredients (at least 1/4 cup for every egg) to the raw eggs and heating the mixture to 160 before adding it to cooked or solid ingredients.

What about all those essential nutrients that we rely on eggs to give us?  Does this high heat diminish their value?

For the most part, the answer is no.  “Egg nutrients are pretty heat-stable,” Maloberti says. “The proteins themselves are only affected by overcooking.”  The B vitamins found in eggs, on the other hand, are more heat-sensitive, but these are vulnerable any time an egg is cooked.

For those who don’t feel the need to use fresh eggs, but still want to make safe food, Dean Hughson, vice president of Henningsen’s Foods, recommends liquid, frozen, or dried egg products, which are required by law to be pasteurized.

 
However people choose to make their holiday goodies safe, Maloberti has one final piece of advice for bakers: “French silk pie on a display table is a no-no.”  Pies might look lovely on a banquet table, but the rich nutrients in the eggs also make a lovely home for bacteria. Maloberti recommends taking pies out to serve, and then putting them back in the fridge or oven.

 
For more information on egg safety, visit the American Egg Board‘s website.

© Food Safety News
  • mb

    What is with the latest nutmeg recall?
    The nutmeg was sold in all 50 states and parts of Canada to consumers, retailers, and distributors. Isn’t nutmeg used in eggnog industrial made and home made?
    Where is the traceback to all the contaminated nutmeg so it can be removed immediately?

  • dangermaus

    Nice molecular gastronomy lesson! I’m going to give it a shot this weekend.
    Don’t trust the government to make food “safe” – do it yourself. Most importantly, enjoy your food and demand high quality from those you buy it from! Don’t fear it!

  • mmmhealthyfood

    I have been using shelled pasteurized eggs for a few years now. They’re always available at my local grocer, and a lot of the times they have coupons, too. I mean with all these recent egg recalls and food safety bills, it seems that pasteurized eggs are the current solution. Whether or not egg are going to be effected by this new bill the gov’t has passed, the cost of having more inspections, or addin new testing technology (testing for salmonella,) the cost will eventually be passed down to the consumer. If you think about it, there is a product out there that is safe and you wouldn’t have to worry about any recalls. Especially with the holiday season in full bloom, I’m using more than ever.

  • We haven’t heard of any updates on the nutmeg recall. Here’s the latest from the FDA: http://www.fda.gov/safety/recalls/ucm235300.htm

  • dangermaus

    About the nutmeg recall – I noticed on that link that it’s GROUND nutmeg that was recalled… You’re almost always better off buying (and eating) foods in as close to their natural state as you can get them. The more processed it is, the more changes it has had to get contaminated by some other source.
    In addition to the fact that the contamination might well have been introduced by the equipment that ground it, whole nutmeg, shaved with a Microplane is dramatically better (more fragrant, less sharp). Treat yourself to better food!

  • Josephine

    This article is a joke. The quotes come from the American Egg Board and Henningsen Foods. Both extremely biased parties. The AEB wants us our over easy eggs to become a science experiment by adding sugar and cooking to 160? wtf How many people get a thermometer out when making breakfast.
    And of course a company that produces dehydrated eggs (Henningsen) would say that you can’t find shelled pasteurized eggs. That is a down right lie. You can find pasteurized shell eggs in a lot grocery stores and if more people demanded them in their local stores they would be easier to come by.
    But companies like Henningsen what their disgusting tasting and totally unnatural liquid (just read the ingredients on the back of a liquid egg product and you will see it isn’t just eggs in there my friends) and dehydrated products to be what consumer look for NOT a whole shell egg that has been pasteurized in an all-natural water bath process. And the AEB is no better. They will never promote a safe product such as a pasteurized shell egg because that would mean eggs are could be potentially dangerous. No, instead they just suggest that we add more sugar to the American diet. Brilliant.

  • We haven’t heard of any updates on the nutmeg recall. Here’s the latest from the FDA: http://www.fda.gov/safety/recalls/ucm235300.htm

  • Gretchen,
    I sent this article to friends who sent it to friends . . . who knows how far the chain is reaching. Here’s a question that came from one of the friend’s friends:
    I wonder if there’s any info about raw egg yolks cooked with lemon juice like we do with the “cheaters hollandaise” I’ve been doing it for 12 years now w/out a single complaint.”
    Does anyone know about this?

  • Gretchen,
    I sent this article to friends who sent it to friends . . . who knows how far the chain is reaching. Here’s a question that came from one of the friend’s friends:
    I wonder if there’s any info about raw egg yolks cooked with lemon juice like we do with the “cheaters hollandaise” I’ve been doing it for 12 years now w/out a single complaint.”
    Does anyone know about this?

  • ggoetz

    Cookson,
    According to Maloberti, yes, the same technique can be used with lemon juice, which will also keep proteins from coagulating at high temperatures. This can be useful in making hollandaise sauce and Caesar salad dressing, among other recipes.

  • Gretchen Goetz

    Cookson,
    According to Maloberti, yes, the same technique can be used with lemon juice, which will also keep proteins from coagulating at high temperatures. This can be useful in making hollandaise sauce and Caesar salad dressing, among other recipes.