While the risk of becoming ill is rare, here are a few quick tips for handling eggs safely to ensure your family stays healthy.
Eggs in a carton, one broken
Mitch Diamond/Getty Images
| Credit: Mitch Diamond/Getty Images

Let's start with some simple facts. According to the American Egg Board, your chances of cracking open an infected egg is about 0.005% (five one-thousandths of a percent). Scientists conservatively estimate only one out of every 20,000 eggs produced might contain the salmonella bacteria.

Even if an egg does contain the bacteria, the amount in a freshly laid egg probably will be small, and if the egg is properly refrigerated and handled, will not multiply enough to cause illness in a healthy person. However, children, pregnant women, the elderly, and anyone with a compromised immune system should take special care to avoid the risk of salmonella food poisoning.

How Do You Make Raw Eggs Safe?

Here are some egg handling and storage tips and answers to frequently asked questions about the safety of raw eggs.

How to Store Eggs

Choose Grade-A or AA eggs with clean, uncracked shells. Buy only eggs that have been kept refrigerated -- any bacteria present in eggs can grow rapidly outside refrigeration. If the egg carton has a date printed on it, make sure it hasn't passed.

Keep Eggs Refrigerated

Store eggs in a 40-degree F refrigerator after purchasing. The cold fridge will limit the growth of any bacteria that might be there. Leave eggs unwashed in their original carton in a cold section of the fridge, not in the door. Eggs in the door may pick up funky odors and flavors. Don't wash eggs before storing because that will remove the protective coating applied at the packaging plant.

Handle Eggs with Care

As with any food preparation, make sure to wash hands, utensils, equipment, and work surfaces with hot soapy water before and after they come in contact with raw eggs. Minimize preparation and serving time -- don't allow eggs to remain out of the refrigerator for more than two hours (not counting cooking time).

Serve cooked egg dishes immediately after cooking, or refrigerate at once for serving later. Use within three to four days, or freeze for longer storage.

You can also freeze egg whites. Place them in a tightly sealed container. Yolks, however, don't freeze well; they lose their textural integrity.

Can You Get Salmonella from Raw Eggs?

Yes, you can get Salmonella from raw eggs. As we mention above, it is rare. But why be sorry when you can be safe? The bacteria is found on the outside shells but also inside the eggs themselves. And if you develop food poisoning from eating salmonella-infected raw eggs, you will definitely wish you'd taken simple precautions.

Is It Safe to Eat Raw Eggs?

The USDA says it is safe to eat pasteurized eggs. As the USDA web site puts it: "in-shell pasteurized eggs may be used safely without cooking." That's good news if you enjoy foods like Caesar salad and homemade mayonnaise. The in-shell egg pasteurization process heats the eggs in a hot water bath to a point that kills bacteria without cooking the eggs. So then, is it bad to eat raw eggs? Not if they're pasteurized. The USDA requires eggs that have not been treated to destroy Salmonella to display this safe food-handling statement: "To prevent illness from bacteria: Keep eggs refrigerated, cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook foods containing eggs thoroughly."

Where Can I find Pasteurized Eggs?

Look for pasteurized eggs in the refrigerated section with the raw eggs.

Check out our collection of breakfast egg recipes.