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Avoiding salmonella with eggs from the backyard flock.

Salmonella is a bacteria commonly found in animals, especially birds and reptiles. When a human is infected the symptoms are known as salmonellosis and usually include fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhea starting 12-48 hours after consuming contaminated food or liquid. The diarrhea is normally bloody and hospitalization is also normally required. The illness lasts from four to seven days and virtually all those affected recover without antibiotic treatment.

However, salmonella can be life-threatening to the elderly, infants and those with impaired immune systems. In these patients, the infection may spread beyond the intestines to the bloodstream and from there to other areas of the body, such as joints or the spinal cord. In these cases, antibiotic treatment is essential.

Salmonella poisoning instances have been on the increase mostly from undercooked eggs containing the bacteria. The risks of salmonella poisoning vary from region to region. It has been estimated that in the Northeast, the risk of eating a contaminated egg is on the order of one in 50 people during a year.

The American Egg Board and the Egg Nutrition Center offer the following suggested guidelines when working with eggs:

-- Keep eggs refrigerated at all times.

-- Don't use cracked eggs.

-- Promptly refrigerate unused or leftover egg-containing foods in the smallest container practical.

-- Avoid eating raw or undercooked eggs or anything made with raw eggs.

-- Avoid eating undercooked scrambled eggs - don't serve them runny.

The following cooking times are also recommended by these agencies:

-- Scrambled - one minute at a cooking surface temperature of 250 [degrees]F.

-- Poached - five minutes in boiling water.

-- Sunnyside - seven minutes at a cooking surface temperature of 250 [degrees]F or cook covered for four minutes at 250 [degrees]F.

-- Fried over easy - three minutes at a cooking surface temperature of 250 [degrees]F on one side, then turn the egg and fry for another two minutes on the other side.

-- Soft cooked - seven minutes in boiling water.

Bear in mind the exposure risk of a homesteader to a contaminated egg can be very high if even one homestead egg layer is harboring the salmonella bacteria. In the event of a case of salmonella poisoning it may be necessary to replace the entire flock if the individual animal(s) cannot be otherwise identified.
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Author:Scharabok, Ken
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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