Does Eggnog Actually Contain Raw Eggs?

Glass of eggnog with cinnamon stick
Glass of eggnog with cinnamon stick - AtlasStudio/Shutterstock

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One common concern around the holiday season is getting food poisoning from eggnog. (Yes, as the name suggests, the traditional version of eggnog does indeed contain raw eggs.) The culprit here is salmonella, a bacterium present in raw eggs and other foods. Its symptoms kick in within 12 to 72 hours after ingesting contaminated food and may include stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and body aches. There are even documented incidents of salmonella contamination of eggnog that led to illness, and death.

Although eggnog can have a questionable reputation, in reality, the chances of getting sick are very low. Only one in 20,000 eggs has salmonella. This is great news for those who love this rich and creamy beverage (that tastes delightfully like melted vanilla ice cream). It's simply delicious, and, for many of us, brings back fond childhood memories. Maybe that's reason enough to keep it on the menu during the most wonderful time of the year.

Read more: The Ultimate Ice Cream Brands, Ranked

Is It Safe To Drink Eggnog Made With Raw Eggs?

Hands cracking an egg into bowl
Hands cracking an egg into bowl - Liudmila Chernetska/Getty Images

Traditional eggnog is made with sugar, milk, eggs, spices, and rum or other spirits. The problem is that most recipes call for raw eggs, which, as mentioned earlier, may carry salmonella. Some people say alcohol kills the bacteria, but that's not entirely true. According to food safety expert Ben Chapman, this compound destroys some, but not all, of the pathogens in eggnog. Based on his research, alcohol can reduce salmonella by 90% to 99% over 24 hours.

"The cream also complicates things in eggnog as it has fat in it — and high-fat environments like peanut butter and chocolate serve to protect salmonella cells," Chapman told North Carolina State University. Given these risks, he recommends using pasteurized eggs in homemade eggnog. Alternatively, opt for store-bought eggnog, which is almost always pasteurized. "That means the egg-and-milk combination has been heat-treated to kill most of the harmful microorganisms that could make you sick, and reduce the ones that cause spoilage as well," says Chapman.

But there's no real need to worry, as the risk of contracting salmonella from raw eggs is very small. According to the American Egg Board, the average person might encounter a "bad" egg once every 84 years. However, certain groups — including small children, seniors, and people with weak immune systems — are at higher risk for salmonella infection, warns the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On top of that, they tend to experience more severe symptoms.

The Safest Way To Make Eggnog

Hands holding glass of eggnog
Hands holding glass of eggnog - Milthon Phic Studio/Shutterstock

With the right ingredients, eggnog is perfectly safe to consume. To ensure your homemade batch is good to go, buy pasteurized egg products for your eggnog. Another option is to cook the raw eggs with milk and sugar to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature is high enough to kill the bacteria and eliminate the risk of food poisoning. Let the mixture cool completely before adding the remaining ingredients.

Looking for an egg-free alternative? Try replacing the eggs with a French vanilla pudding mix. This ingredient will hold the mixture together and give it a creamy consistency. The downside is that vanilla pudding may not work in some international recipes, such as eierlikör, tamagozake, and other types of eggnog from around the world.

If you opt for store-bought eggnog, spice things up with a bit of nutmeg, almond extract, or pumpkin pie seasoning. You can also stir in a shot of coffee, ginger liqueur, or Irish cream liqueur to make it taste a little more exciting. For a spicy kick, sprinkle a dash of cayenne pepper over your eggnog or stir in a few teaspoons of melted chili dark chocolate.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.