Delicious and nutritious, eggs can be a protein-rich addition to your healthy diet. Yet experts warn that some eggs can be contaminated with dangerous bacteria that can make you seriously sick if consumed.
"Although most people will recover from a foodborne illness within a short period of time, some can develop chronic, severe, or even life-threatening health problems," explains an egg safety report published by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For this reason, your safety depends on taking simple safety precautions when handling eggs and recognizing the signs of spoilage. Read on to find out which red flag means you should throw your eggs away and how to minimize your risk of serious foodborne illness.
If you notice that your eggs are "pink or pearly," throw them out.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), you should throw your eggs out immediately if you notice that the egg whites are "pink or pearly" in color. Color change or iridescence, however subtle, can indicate spoilage due to Pseudomonas bacteria. This is the most frequent type of spoilage in eggs and consuming eggs tainted with such bacteria can lead to food poisoning, experts say.
"This bacteria produces a greenish, fluorescent, water-soluble pigment in the egg white. If you come across an egg with an off-color egg white, discard it," experts at the Egg Safety Center recommend.
Pseudomonas spoilage may cause other noticeable changes in your eggs, too.
In addition to keeping an eye out for pink or iridescent coloration, one study says there are other signs that your eggs are contaminated with Pseudomonas bacteria.
"Spoiled eggs emanate different bad smells such as sourish, musty, or fruit like," warns one study published in Poultry Science. Besides changes in the color of egg whites, which can also sometimes appear green, "the egg white liquefies, becomes fibrous and a whitish and later brownish, crusty layer forms on the yolk," those researchers found.
However, not all color variations indicate that an egg is unsafe to eat.
While some color variations can signal spoilage, others are perfectly safe. "A cloudy egg white (albumen) is a sign the egg is very fresh. A clear egg white is an indication the egg is aging," according to the USDA. "The color of yolk varies in shades of yellow depending upon the diet of the hen. If she eats plenty of yellow-orange plant pigments, the yolk will be a darker yellow," experts from the food authority add.
Additionally, it's normal to notice a small amount of red in your eggs. "Blood spots are caused by a rupture of one or more small blood vessels in the yolk at the time of ovulation. It does not indicate the egg is unsafe," USDA experts note.
You can avoid infection by taking a few safety precautions.
Though eating spoiled eggs can lead to serious foodborne illness, following safe handling practices can help minimize your risk. According to Deana R. Jones, PhD, a research food technologist at the USDA's National Poultry Research Center "refrigeration, hand washing, and care to prevent cross-contamination are always advised—as with any raw agricultural commodity."
Jones recommends storing eggs in the carton they came in and placing them on a shelf within your refrigerator rather than inside the door. Additionally, Jones suggests limiting how often you open and close your refrigerator door to maintain even temperatures of 45 degrees Fahrenheit or below, which can reduce the risk of spoilage.