Whether or not you’re a fan of eggnog, someone is probably bringing it to your New Year’s gathering. If not made properly, the homemade eggnog recipe could include Salmonella. And no — adding alcohol does not kill the germs.

This is especially dangerous if you are serving people at high risk for foodborne infections: young children, pregnant women, older adults and people with weakened immune systems.

Each year this creamy homemade drink causes many cases of Salmonella infection. The ingredient responsible is usually raw or undercooked eggs. Raw eggs are a standard ingredient in most homemade eggnog recipes, giving the beverage its characteristic frothy texture.

Eggnog recipes vary greatly, and the use as coffee creamer or part of a cocktail doesn’t mean that bacteria aren’t finding their way and surviving in your drinks.

Here is a helpful guide from the University of Minnesota’s Food, health and Nutrition Extension to keep Salmonella out of your eggnog.

Use pasteurized eggs
Eggnog may be safely made at home by using pasteurized whole or liquid eggs. Pasteurized eggs are found next to regular eggs at the store. Egg substitutes can also be used. These products have also been pasteurized. Using a pasteurized product means that no further cooking is necessary.

Cook to 160 degrees F
If using regular eggs that have not been pasteurized use a recipe in which you cook the egg mixture to 160 degrees F.  At this temperature, the egg mixture thickens enough to coat a spoon. Follow the recipe carefully. Refrigerate it at once. When refrigerating a large amount of cooked eggnog, divide it into several shallow containers. Then it will cool quickly.

Use pasteurized eggs
If a recipe calls for folding raw, beaten egg whites into the eggnog, use pasteurized eggs. It has not been proven that raw egg whites are free of Salmonella bacteria.

If you purchase eggnog from your local grocery store, the eggnog has been prepared with pasteurized eggs. You do not need to cook it.

Who’s at risk?
Salmonella and the resulting foodborne illness can affect anyone but its especially risky for some people. This includes senior citizens, pregnant women and very young children. People with weakened immune systems who suffer from chronic illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, liver disease and AIDS are also at risk. So be particularly careful when serving eggnog to those individuals.

Apple cider and other juices
Another beverage often served during the holiday season is apple cider. Apple cider and most juices available at grocery stores are pasteurized or otherwise treated to destroy harmful bacteria. However, unpasteurized or raw juice may be found in the refrigerated sections of grocery stores, or at health-food stores, cider mills or farm markets. However, these types of products should have a warning such as:

This product has not been pasteurized
and therefore, may contain harmful bacteria that can cause serious illness
in children, the elderly,
and persons with weakened immune systems.

If you can’t tell whether a juice has been processed to destroy harmful bacteria, either don’t use the product or boil it to kill any bacteria.

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