Monday, March 10, 2014

Salmonella (My Mom Made Me Write This)

A few weeks ago I shared my habit of eating raw eggs on occasion. I casually assured all thirty-three of you readers out there that you could safely do the same. 

When my folks caught wind of this, they were up in arms that I was passing out advice that would make others sick. Clearly they don't have a grasp on the scope of my readership, but I took their concern as flattery. My mom works in public health and my dad's a doctor--they've devoted their lives to fighting and minimizing the spread of illness. Concerned that they might report my blog to the Center for Disease Control, I promised to write a follow-up post based on some research on salmonella. So, here we go!

One in every 30,000 eggs is contaminated with Salmonella. Infection is rarely induced by eggs--from a study conducted by the US Dept. of Ag, 2002.

According to the American Egg Board’s Egg Safety Reference (there's a mouthful!), an average consumer might encounter a contaminated egg once every 84 years.

Many who fall ill from contaminated eggs contract it at a restaurant. Restaurants are more likely to break and mix together large numbers of eggs, potentially causing the bacteria in a single egg to multiply and contaminate many more--from the FDA.

Rodents are the leading source that infect chickens, so keeping coops clean and rodent-proof can reduce the risk of exposing chickens to the disease--Food Safety News

Eggs shells have an airtight seal around them that keeps bacteria from entering eggs. Unhealthy chickens don't produce as strong or reliable of a seal. Providing fresh water and food, ventilation, as well as room to roam and take dust baths, which minimize mites, keeps chickens healthy and can prevent salmonella from entering eggs if a chicken is infected. Even if your chickens have all these things and look healthy, they can still carry salmonella.

Some advice that I found helpful suggests that if you buy chicks from a hatchery, make sure it a reputable business. Choosing a hatchery that produces a variety of heirloom breeds is often a good choice, because chicken diversity can benefit a flock’s health. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly reported that in 2012 there was an outbreak that originated from a mail-order hatchery. Almost 200 people were infected from handling the chicks, making it the largest poultry related outbreak. 

So, there you have it! You can now make a truly informed decision about the risk of eating raw eggs and the factors that can contribute to infecting your flock. That said, I'm still putting raw eggs in my smoothies.


  1. Marian! Your rooster looks exactly like our beloved Monsieur did in his prime. Beautiful pictures and words, though I'm ignoring most of your warnings, I love a good raw egg. xoxo

    1. I believe I've seen a classic picture of your Monsieur on a fridge in Oakland...Pretty, our rooster, couldn't have a better temperament. How do you eat your raw eggs?

  2. Really interesting facts, I generally avoid raw eggs just because my parents told me to as a kid e.g. No kicking the baking bowl! It's good to have some info.

    Also your photos are stunning, the colours of your rooster!

    1. I agree! I was pleasantly surprised to discover just how minimal the risks are, though the consequences are inarguably undesirable.

      I love how handsome our rooster, Pretty, is, and I think he knows it.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. From my farming friend Emily: Did the report say which hatchery had the outbreak? Also, the airtight seal is removed when eggs are washed. The USDA requires all eggs be washed that are sold, thus they need to be refrigerated, because bacteria can get in - the shell itself is porous. In some places in Europe and countries I have visited in Latin America, the eggs in the store are on the shelf in a random aisle, not refrigerated. That is because they have not been washed and their airtight seal has remained intact, keeping them safe from bacteria. Interesting