Insights & Actions for Healthy Living

I just found out about pasteurized eggs in the shell. What does that mean?

What a great question about a relatively new product that we are seeing in the grocery stores.

Pasteurized eggs have been around for a long time in liquid form from the carton. You may have seen those before. It is a pour-and-cook egg, in either whole egg or egg white only version. The benefit of shell pasteurized eggs versus liquid is the ability to retain a shape for your favorite egg recipe.

The idea behind pasteurizing eggs is to reduce potential contamination with Salmonella. Both the inside and the outside of eggs can be contaminated with Salmonella from the chicken and the egg still appear fine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate 1,027,561 cases of Salmonella per year. Among bacteria, Salmonella is the top cause of foodborne illness. According the USDA, 2.3 million shell eggs are contaminated with Salmonella every year. Children and older adults, pregnant women and those who are immune compromised are at greater risk of contracting a foodborne illness.

When pasteurizing eggs in the shell they undergo a process which combines specific times and temperatures to destroy bacteria and viruses without cooking the egg. The egg itself does not change in nutritional content either, according to the manufacturer. After the eggs are pasteurized, they are coated in a food grade wax, which seals the egg’s pores to prevent any future contamination. Shell eggs that are pasteurized will be stamped with a red P.

If you choose to buy the pasteurized version, you will reduce the likelihood of contracting a foodborne illness. Safe food handling, frequent hand washing, proper storage of perishable food, cleaning and disinfecting your food preparation surfaces and storing leftovers promptly will also reduce the chances of illness.

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