veggies.jpg (6769 bytes)fruitbowl.jpg (6391 bytes)SUPERBUGS: The Hard-Boiled Truth: Salmonella and Eggs

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SUPERBUGS: The Hard-Boiled Truth: Salmonella and Eggs
By: Michael Greger, M.D. 

In June 2005, the Centers for Disease Control released data showing resistant Salmonella led to serious complications as well.[1] Foodborne Salmonella emerged in the Northeast in the late 1970s and has now spread throughout North America. Salmonella hospitalizes thousands of people every year and kills hundreds. And Salmonella infection can be the gift that keeps on giving: Salmonella infections can lead to chronic conditions such as arthritis, bone infections, cardiac inflammation and neurological disorders.[2]

In the United States, more than one in five "broiler" chickens may be Salmonella infected (at least in Russian roulette, there are six chambers).[3] But it's even more of a problem with egg-laying hens. Eggs are the primary vehicle for the spread of Salmonella bacteria to humans, causing an estimated 80% of outbreaks. This year, the CDC published the first estimate of how many Americans get Salmonella from eggs every year. According to the best data we have, eating Salmonella-infected eggs may cause 168,000illnesses every year in the United States alone.[4] A comic strip up in my office helps explain the level of infection:

Father and daughter are in the grocery store. "That's a cow's tongue?!" the girl exclaims, face contorted in disgust. "EEEEww...I would never eat anything that was in a cow's mouth!"

"Me neither," replies the father not looking up from his shopping list. "Let's see..." he continues, "where are the eggs?"

Ruthie stops. "Wait a minute!" she exclaims, eyes wide in realization.

Can't you just wash off the eggs? Unfortunately, no. Many of the tainted eggs are infected within the hens' ovaries even before the shell forms, so you can't wash away the infection. And, as we'll see, washing meat doesn't work either.


[1] Varma JK, et al. "Hospitalization and antimicrobial resistance in Salmonella outbreaks, United States, 1984-2002." Emerging Infectious Disease. June 2005.

[2] International Journal of Food Microbiology 24(1994):11-31.

[3] Journal of Infectious Disease 183(2001):1295-9.

[4] Schroeder CM, et al. "Estimate of Illnesses from Salmonella Enteritidis in Eggs, United States, 2000." Emerging Infectious Diseases 11(2005):113-5.

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