More than half a billion eggs were recalled after Salmonella sickened over 1600 people (according to the Center for Disease Control, or CDC in September.) That’s a lot of eggs, and a lot of sick people.
What is this nasty bacteria that makes us wonder whether we should let our kids eat raw chocolate chip cookie dough, even as we sneak several spoonfuls when they’re not looking?
Salmonella enterocolitis is one of the most common types of food poisoning and is caused by the bacteria Salmonella Enteriditis. You can get a Salmonella infection by swallowing food or water that is contaminated with the salmonella bacteria. Often, the culprit is surface contamination from raw chicken and raw or undercooked eggs. In most people, it causes diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramping, but young children and those with weakened immune systems are at greater risk of dehydration and more serious infections.
Why don’t they just wash the eggs better? Salmonella bacteria live in the intestinal tracts of animals and birds and can infect the ovaries of healthy-looking chickens. This allows bacteria to infect the eggs even before the shell is formed and voila- you have a pathogen that can’t be washed off of the egg because it’s inside. Salmonella bacteria are often found in the “white” of an egg, although they can migrate to the yolk as the raw egg sits in your refrigerator. Organic and free range chickens have less disease than factory-“farm” raised chickens, partly because of healthier diets and less crowding. Cooking eggs until the yolk is solid kills Salmonella bacteria.
How can you make your cookie dough and eat it too? Buy pasteurized eggs (you can find them at most grocery stores) that have been heat-treated to kill bacteria, but are still essentially raw for all cooking and baking purposes.
Also, remember to wash cutting boards you’ve cut meat on with soap and water before cutting anything else on them, or just have separate cutting boards for meat. Don’t forget to wash your hands after handling raw eggs! Pet food and reptiles can also harbor salmonella bacteria, so have your kids wash their hand after handling either!
Bacteria are everywhere. Some keep you healthy and some make you sick, but making good decisions in the kitchen can keep you and your family from being affected by food-born illness!
In today’s paper, I was disgusted to read that two school-age children, a toddler and a 70-year old man were victims of an E.coli outbreak this week caused by raw milk from a Minnesota dairy. The toddler is currently hospitalized with a serious condition related to the infection (hemolytic uremic syndrome) which can cause kidney failure and death. These are unnecessary illnesses and people are putting themselves and their children at risk by drinking raw milk.
Pasteurization is the process of heating up food to kill any bacteria it might contain. Louis Pasteur first tested the process in 1864 and it is perfectly safe. However, some people who drink raw milk feel that beneficial proteins and bacteria are destroyed during the heating process.
According to the Health Department, several dozen people are sickened by raw milk every year in Minnesota. Unpasteurized milk can contain the live pathogens, or bad bacteria, E. coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter. Most people are careful handling and cooking meat to avoid the very same pathogens. Why they wouldn’t mind drinking them is a mystery to me.
Beneficial, or “good” bacteria can be found in most yogurt and many companies now add beneficial bacteria to other dairy items, including pasteurized milk. I suspect that many of milk’s other beneficial heat-sensitive proteins can be found in other, safe foods as well. Even raw milk cheese made correctly is safer than raw milk, because it contains other microbes that inhibit the growth of pathogens.
Maybe people don’t realize it, but giving their child a glass of raw milk is as risky as feeding them a raw hamburger. I’m glad to hear the state is cracking down.