Editor’s note: This consumer advice column, by FDA staff working with the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, was originally published on www.foodsafety.gov. Please remember, some premixed eggnog products sold in retailers’ refrigerated and frozen food departments are not made with pasteurized eggs and, like homemade eggnog, have been linked to illnesses. Raw milk also poses serious health risks because it has not been pasteurized to kill pathogens, bacteria and viruses.
Homemade eggnog is a tradition in many families during the holiday season. But each year this creamy drink causes many cases of Salmonella. The ingredient responsible? Usually raw or undercooked eggs.
Eggs are a standard ingredient in most homemade eggnog recipes, giving the beverage its characteristic frothy texture. To prevent this ingredient from causing harmful infections, just follow these guidelines for safe handling.
Cooking the egg base
At the FDA, we advise consumers to start with a cooked egg base for eggnog. This is especially important if you are serving people at high risk for foodborne infections: young children and pregnant women (non-alcoholic eggnog), older adults, and those with weakened immune systems.
To make a cooked egg base:
- Combine eggs and half the milk as indicated in the recipe. Other ingredients, such as sugar may be added at this step.
- Cook the mixture gently to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F, stirring constantly. The cooking will destroy Salmonella, if present.
- After cooking, chill the mixture before adding the rest of the milk and other ingredients.
Don’t count on alcohol to kill bacteria
Some people think that adding rum, whiskey, or other alcohol to the recipe will make the eggnog safe. But, if contaminated unpasteurized eggs are used in eggnog, you can’t count on the alcohol in the drink to kill all of the bacteria – that’s not likely to happen
Other options for safe eggnog
You can also use egg substitute products or pasteurized eggs in your eggnog, or you can find a recipe without eggs.
- With the egg substitute products, you might have to experiment a bit with the recipe to figure out the right amount to add for the best flavor.
- Pasteurized eggs can also be used in place of raw eggs. Commercial pasteurization of eggs is a heat process at low temperatures that destroys Salmonella that might be present, without having a noticeable effect on flavor or nutritional content. These are available at some supermarkets for a slightly higher cost than unpasteurized eggs. Even if you’re using pasteurized eggs for your eggnog, both the FDA and the USDA recommend starting with a cooked egg base for optimal safety.
So, by following these safe handling and proper cooking practices, you can enjoy delicious, creamy homemade eggnog without worrying about making anyone sick!
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