Concerns about eggnog bubble up around the holidays, but cocktails made with eggs and egg whites are safe to sip. Here's why.
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Cold Refreshing Eggnog Drink for the Holidays
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Eggnog dates back to the early 1800s as a social drink that pops up at holiday parties, dinners, and festivals. The Christmasy drink comes in a variety of styles, from thick and custardy to icy and nearly spoonable. The popularity of eggnog is going nowhere, with brands releasing new varieties and even eggnog-flavored wines every season. Indeed, Americans buy about 60 million quarts of eggnog each year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says. That's despite common concerns about eating or drinking raw eggs, which are linked to food poisoning. Yikes.

So is eggnog safe to drink?

In most cases, yes. Most classic eggnog recipes call for raw eggs. "Eggnog made with raw, unpasteurized eggs can contain Salmonella, a leading cause of food poisoning," Lee Cotton, RDN LPN, tells Allrecipes. She adds, while the bacteria can make anyone sick, young children, older adults, pregnant women, and anyone with a weakened immune system are particularly vulnerable. Plus, don't forget, eggnog also typically contains alcohol as a key ingredient, making it a definite no-no for expecting women and anyone under the legal drinking age.

The good news is almost all of the eggnog sold in stores is pasteurized, which kills the potentially dangerous bacteria. (Be sure to double-check that the carton or bottle says pasteurized.) If you're the type of hostest-with-the-mostest that wants to whip a bowl of homemade eggnog, use pasteurized liquid eggs or pasteurized liquid egg whites for egg white cocktails, sold in a carton at your local grocery store, Cotton says.

Does the alcohol in drinks kill bacteria?

No. According to the University of Minnesota Extension, "eggs must be cooked to 160 degrees F to kill Salmonella that may be present. Adding alcohol inhibits bacterial growth, but it cannot be relied upon to kill it completely."

However, if you use pasteurized eggs, no further cooking is necessary. "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," the extension office said on their website.

Bottom line: Eggnog and egg white cocktails made with pasteurized eggs are safest, but alcohol can prevent the growth of bad bacteria like Salmonella. So you can safely sip your eggnog this holiday season, knowing the only reason you might regret it the next day is because you had one glass too many.

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