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Contaminated eggs are latest topic of food safety debates

After the gulf oil spill we had a lot of calls coming in about whether or not it was safe to eat seafood from the Gulf.

Now with the national egg recall we are receiving some calls on whether or not it is safe to eat eggs in our area. Being this is a national problem, I figured I would fill you all in on the egg debacle.

Q: Where are the contaminated eggs coming from?

A: If you have not been watching the news lately here is the current information. As of Aug. 20 there were two potential sources of contaminated shell eggs. Both farms are in Iowa, one is Hillandale Farms and the other is Wright County Eggs. These two farms ship eggs to the following states for distribution; California, Illinois, Missouri, Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. These states do ship eggs to states nationwide including Mississippi and Louisiana.

Q: Have any contaminated eggs been traced to Mississippi?

A: First of all, as of Friday there have been no reports of salmonella illness related to egg consumption in this state. As of Friday morning it is uncertain if any infected eggs are in Mississippi. The recall has stopped a mass amount of those suspected eggs from reaching the shelves. However, with more than 300 million eggs being recalled it is difficult to track down all of them.

Q: What is the safe way to eat eggs?

A: Eggs are one of our most nutritious foods, they are very economical to buy and they are packed with protein. Mississippi State University Food Science Department has published a brochure on egg preparation. They strongly recommend all egg products be fully cooked to ensure safety. Scrambled eggs should be fully cooked until the white and yoke are firm. Egg mixtures like casseroles should be cooked until the center of the casserole reaches 160 degrees F. Homemade ice cream, eggnog or other recipes that require the use of raw eggs from the shell should also be heated until the liquid reaches 160 degrees.

Egg products that are liquid or frozen egg substitutes that have been pasteurized are safe because they have previously been pasteurized. However, it is still best to use them in a recipe that will be fully cooked.

Q: Who is most at risk of Salmonella poisoning?

A: Salmonella is a concern that we should all take seriously especially at times of reported outbreaks. Symptoms are fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. It is usually much more of a concern in infants and young children, elderly citizens, and those with weak immune systems.

Q: How long will this recall last?

A: This I do not know. Right now the Food and Drug Administration along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and states public health agencies are actively working to isolate all potential threats and traceable information to remove all possible eggs from human consumption. This could take some time before the all clear is given. So in the meantime I would say be cautious but continue to enjoy eggs from you local supermarkets, just make sure you cook them thoroughly.

David Carter is the director of the Adams County Extension Service. He can be reached at 601-445-8201.

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