Eggs are a good choice as part of a healthy, balanced diet. As well as being a source of protein they also contain vitamins and minerals. However, to avoid any risk of food poisoning from eggs it’s important to store, handle and prepare them properly.
Can I eat raw and lightly cooked hen eggs?
People who are in good health
People who are in good health (i.e. who are not vulnerable to infection) are unlikely to experience food poisoning through consuming UK hen eggs and therefore can eat raw or soft boiled UK hen eggs, or foods containing lightly cooked UK hen eggs.
- People who are more vulnerable to infection or who are likely to suffer more serious symptoms from food poisoning (young children, pregnant women and elderly people) can eat raw or lightly cooked UK hen eggs or foods containing them provided that the eggs are produced under the Lion Code with a British Lion mark or under the Laid in Britain egg assurance scheme. Dishes or food made with raw/lightly cooked eggs include mayonnaise, soufflé and tiramisu for example.
- If the eggs are not Lion Code or Laid in Britain, or if in doubt, people who may be more vulnerable to infection are advised to eat eggs thoroughly cooked.
- It should be noted that this advice does not extend to individuals who are severely immunocompromised requiring medically supervised diets prescribed by health professionals.
Non-hen eggs carry a higher risk of Salmonella and should not be used to prepare raw or lightly cooked egg dishes. Eggs from species other than chickens should always be cooked thoroughly.
How should I store eggs?
- Store eggs in a cool, dry place, ideally in the fridge
- Store eggs away from other foods. It’s a good idea to use your fridge’s egg tray, if you have one, because this helps to keep eggs separate
- Observe the best before date on the egg
- Eat dishes containing eggs as soon as possible after you have prepared them. If you are not planning to eat them straight away, cool them quickly and then keep them in the fridge and eat within 2 days
- A hard-boiled egg can be kept for up to 2 days in the fridge (within or outwith the shell) or hard boiled yolks can be frozen
- To freeze whole eggs beat the eggs until blended and pour into freezer containers that can be sealed tightly
Best before dates of eggs
Eggs have a ‘best before’ date of no more than 28 days after they are laid and this date should be adhered to. After this date the quality of the egg will deteriorate and if any Salmonella bacteria are present, they could multiply to high levels and make you ill.
Avoiding the spread of bacteria
Following good hygiene practices are important as bacteria which may be present on the shell as well as inside the egg can spread to foods, hands, utensils and worktops. Here are some top tips to avoid spreading bacteria when you are handling eggs:
- always wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap before and after handling eggs
- clean surfaces, dishes and utensils thoroughly after working with eggs
- avoid eggs with damaged shells as these may allow dirt or bacteria to get inside
- keep eggs away from other foods both when they are in the shell and after you have cracked them
- be careful not to splash egg on to other foods, worktops or dishes