Playing It Safe with Eggs

eggs

Eggs are inexpensive, tasty and nutritious, which makes them so popular. However, they need to be handled, prepared and stored properly to prevent food poisoning. According to the US Food and Drug Administration even eggs with clean, uncracked shells may occasionally contain bacteria called Salmonella that can cause an intestinal infection.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that about 142,000 illnesses each year are caused by consuming eggs contaminated with Salmonella. FDA has put regulations in place to help prevent contamination of eggs on the farm and during shipping and storage. But consumers play a key role in preventing illness associated with eggs. In fact, the most effective way to prevent egg-related illness is by knowing how to buy, store, handle and cook eggs — or foods that contain them — safely.
Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, and vomiting 12 to 72 hours after infection. Symptoms usually last 4 to 7 days and most people get better without treatment. However, in some people, the diarrhea may be so severe that they need to be hospitalized. In these patients, the Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated quickly with antibiotics. Certain people are at greater risk for severe illness and include pregnant women, young children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems.

FDA requires all cartons of shell eggs that have not been treated to carry the following safe handling statement: 

Safe Handling Eggs

To prevent illness from bacteria: keep eggs refrigerated, cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook foods containing eggs thoroughly. Eggs that have been treated to destroy Salmonella — by in-shell pasteurization, for example — are not required to carry safe handling instructions.

You can help keep eggs safe by making wise buying decisions at the grocery store.

  • Buy eggs only if sold from a refrigerator or refrigerated case.
  • Open the carton and make sure that the eggs are clean and the shells are not cracked.
  • Refrigerate promptly.
  • Store eggs in their original carton and use them within 3 weeks for best quality.

Before preparing any food, remember that cleanliness is key!

  • Wash hands, utensils, equipment, and work surfaces with hot, soapy water before and after they come in contact with eggs and egg-containing foods.

Thorough cooking is perhaps the most important step in making sure eggs are safe.

  • Cook eggs until both the yolk and the white are firm. Scrambled eggs should not be runny.
  • Casseroles and other dishes containing eggs should be cooked to 160°F (72°C). Use a food thermometer to be sure.
  • For recipes that call for eggs that are raw or undercooked when the dish is served — Caesar salad dressing and homemade ice cream are two examples — use either shell eggs that have been treated to destroy Salmonella, by pasteurization or another approved method, or pasteurized egg products. Treated shell eggs are available from a growing number of retailers and are clearly labeled, while pasteurized egg products are widely available.

Bacteria can multiply in temperatures from 40°F (5°C) to 140°F (60°C), so it’s very important to serve foods safely.

  • Serve cooked eggs and egg-containing foods immediately after cooking.
  • For buffet-style serving, hot egg dishes should be kept hot, and cold egg dishes kept cold.
  • Eggs and egg dishes, such as quiches or soufflés, may be refrigerated for serving later but should be thoroughly reheated to 165°F (74°C) before serving.
  • Cooked eggs, including hard-boiled eggs, and egg-containing foods, should not sit out for more than 2 hours. Within 2 hours either reheat or refrigerate.

Storing Eggs

  • Use hard-cooked eggs (in the shell or peeled) within 1 week after cooking.
  • Use frozen eggs within 1 year. Eggs should not be frozen in their shells. To freeze whole eggs, beat yolks and whites together. Egg whites can also be frozen by themselves.
  • Refrigerate leftover cooked egg dishes and use within 3 to 4 days. When refrigerating a large amount of a hot egg containing leftover, divide it into several shallow containers so it will cool quickly.

Transporting Eggs

  • Cooked eggs for a picnic should be packed in an insulated cooler with enough ice or frozen gel packs to keep them cold.
  • Don’t put the cooler in the trunk — carry it in the air-conditioned passenger compartment of the car.
  • If taking cooked eggs to work or school, pack them with a small frozen gel pack or a frozen juice box.

Source: USDA

What About Those Other Foods?

foodsa

Many of us are good at reading the nutritional labels on the foods we buy, but what about the other labels that some foods carry. What about labels such as “fat-free,” “reduced calorie,” or “light.”

Here are some definitions from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health that might be helpful:

Calorie terms:

  • Low-calorie – 40 calories or less per serving
  • Reduced-calorie – at least 25 percent fewer calories per serving when compared with a similar food
  • Light or lite – one-third fewer calories; if more than half the calories are from fat, fat content must be reduced by 50 percent or more

Sugar terms:

  • Sugar-free – less than 1/2 gram sugar per serving
  • Reduced sugar – at least 25 percent less sugar per serving when compared with a similar food

Fat terms:

  • Fat-free or 100 percent fat free – less than 1/2 gram fat per serving
  • Low-fat – 3 grams or less per serving
  • Reduced-fat – at least 25 percent less fat when compared with a similar food

Remember that fat-free doesn’t mean calorie free. People tend to think they can eat as much as they want of fat-free foods. Even if you cut fat from your diet but consume more calories than you use, you will gain weight.

Also, fat-free or low-fat foods may contain high amounts of added sugars or sodium to make up for the loss of flavor when fat is removed. You need to check the food labels carefully. For example, a fat-free muffin may be just as high in calories as a regular muffin. So, remember, it is important to read your food labels and compare products.

Finding the nutrient content of foods that don’t have food labels:

When you get a pound of salmon in the meat department of your grocery store, it doesn’t come with a Nutrition Facts label. The same goes for the fresh apples or eggplants that you get in the produce department.

How do you find out the nutrient content of these foods that don’t have food labels?

You can use the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database. This is a bit harder than using the Nutrition Facts label. But by comparing different foods you can get an idea if a food is high or low in saturated fat, sodium, and other nutrients. To compare lots of different foods at one time, check out the USDA’s Nutrient Lists.

Salt and Sugar in Infant and Toddler Foods

toddler

A report published in the journal Pediatrics shares information on a study that evaluated the sodium and sugar content of US commercial infant and toddler foods.

The study reviewed a 2012 nutrient database of 1074 US infant and toddler foods and drinks developed from a commercial database, manufacturer web sites, and major grocery stores. Products were categorized on the basis of their main ingredients and the US Food and Drug Administration’s reference amounts customarily consumed per eating occasion (RACC). Sodium and sugar contents and presence of added sugars were determined.

 The study found that all but 2 of the 657 infant vegetables, dinners, fruits, dry cereals, and ready-to-serve mixed grains and fruits were low sodium (140 mg/RACC). The majority of these foods did not contain added sugars; however, 41 of 79 infant mixed grains and fruits contained 1 added sugar, and 35 also contained >35% calories from sugar. Seventy-two percent of 72 toddler dinners were high in sodium content (>210 mg/RACC). Toddler dinners contained an average of 2295 mg of sodium per 1000 kcal (sodium 212 mg/100 g). Savory infant/toddler snacks (n = 34) contained an average of sodium 1382 mg/1000 kcal (sodium 486 mg/100 g); 1 was high sodium. Thirty-two percent of toddler dinners and the majority of toddler cereal bars/breakfast pastries, fruit, and infant/toddler snacks, desserts, and juices contained 1 added sugar.

Commercial toddler foods and infant or toddler snacks, desserts, and juice drinks are of potential concern due to sodium or sugar content.

Study researchers advise physicians to speak to parents about carefully reviewing nutrition labels when selecting commercial toddler foods, and to limit salty snacks, sweet desserts, and juice drinks. They add that reducing excessive amounts of these ingredients from birth to 24 months can lead to better infant and toddler health now and as they grow.

 

 

Thanksgiving Food Safety Tips

The Partnership for Food Safety Education shares the following links to information on Thanksgiving safety tips.

Handling_Ingredients

www.holidayfoodsafety.org/food-safety/turkey

Click to enlarge the Infographics below

 

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The FDA Ensures Foods from Animals Are Safe

animals

In case you were wondering, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants you to know that it ensures foods from animals are safe.

If you eat meat or drink milk, you want to know: Are there trace amounts of the veterinary drugs used in food-producing animals entering your diet? And if they are, are the amounts safe for human consumption?

Those questions—among others—are the concern of the Division of Residue Chemistry, which is part of FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.

Sick food-producing animals such as pigs, cows, and chickens can be given antibiotics or other drugs to treat diseases. (Some farms also give animals antibiotics to help them grow faster, a practice FDA is working to eliminate by promoting the judicious use of antimicrobials in food-producing animals.) Producers must then wait for the drug to leave the animal’s system before they can slaughter it for consumption. It’s important to ensure that any remaining trace amounts of the drugs are safe to eat by the time the food reaches our plates.

“Our job is twofold,” says Division Director Philip Kijak, Ph.D. “We validate the methods drug companies use to test for drug trace amounts in foods from animals, and we help develop newer and better methods for testing.”

On the first point, the sponsor—usually, the animal pharmaceuticals company—of a drug to be used in a food animal must complete required testing that establishes the drug’s tolerance (a measure of safety), and develop a method to show whether the trace amount in the animal food product is within that tolerance.

“Then we are responsible for validating that method—making sure not only that it works and is accurate, but that it’s a practical method any standard chemical laboratory can use,” Kijak says.

Making Sure Milk Is Safe

For example, the Division examines the methods used to test milk for trace amounts of veterinary drugs used in dairy cows.

Under the Grade “A” Pasteurized Milk Ordinance standards issued by the FDA and the U.S. Public Health Service, all milk must be tested for beta-lactam antibiotics, the most common drugs used by dairy farms. FDA’s role is to evaluate Animalsand approve the data and methods submitted by companies that manufacture rapid-screening tests for these drugs. Rapid screening is important because milk is perishable, and results are needed on the spot.

“Think of these as off-the-shelf kits, like those consumers buy for pregnancy testing,” Kijak says. It’s up to the individual dairies and state regulators to choose the approved kits they want to use. Since 1994, when FDA began evaluating test-kits, the amount of milk containing beta-lactam drugs has dropped from 0.15 percent to 0.014 percent—more than a tenfold decrease, Kijak adds.

Developing Methods to Test Meat

In addition, FDA works with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA’s FSIS) and state regulators to monitor meat, poultry, eggs, and milk for trace amounts of unapproved or unsafe drugs. FSIS tests the foods for a variety of these medications and reports violations to FDA, which follows up with regulatory action when needed.

“To do this job, we had to focus on developing new methods to detect trace amounts of penicillin and other antibiotics,” Kijak says. “With the older method, we were able to tell if penicillin or penicillin and other drugs were present, but we were unable to measure the exact amount of the penicillin when the sample contained more than one drug.” Without this specific information, it was possible for products with unsafe amounts of penicillin to pass inspection. The newer method, which was developed in close cooperation with USDA, enables inspectors to determine if multiple drugs are present, and the amount of each.

Testing for Fungus in Animal Feeds

Recently, the division has become increasingly involved in developing methods to detect mycotoxins and other contaminants in animal feeds. Mycotoxins are toxic compounds made by fungi that grow on grains. Poor growing methods and improper storage conditions can promote the development of these compounds, which that can enter our diets in meat from animals that consumed the contaminated feed.

“While these fungi are almost always present in grain, it’s the amount of mycotoxins that can make the difference between safe and unsafe foods from animals,” Kijak explains. “The new methods enable us to take whatever steps are necessary to make sure the tested products are safe for consumers.”

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

November 3, 2014