Egg safety, why it is important?

How eggs become contaminated

Safe egg handling is important because there is always a chance that eggs can become contaminated by Salmonella when they are laid. Salmonella can live on the egg shell and in pores on shells, with the exception of Salmonella Enteritidis which can penetrate egg shells and infect egg yolks before they are laid.

If handling eggs without good hygiene practices, contamination from eggs can be spread around the kitchen on surfaces, hands and utensils and get into food. Once contaminated surfaces come in to contact with your mouth or you ingest contaminated foods, you are at risk of becoming ill.

Salmonella outbreaks in SA

In 2017 alone, SA Health investigated 15 salmonella outbreaks, 11 of which concluded with eggs being the suspected source of contamination. Findings from investigations of these outbreaks noted issues around cross contamination and lack of knowledge and/or safe practices around the handling of eggs and raw egg products. 7 of the 15 outbreaks were linked to eating at a café or restaurant, bakery or takeaway1.

Salmonella infection

Salmonella infection (salmonellosis) usually causes symptoms such as fever, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, headache, stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting. People such as young children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with suppressed immune systems are more susceptible to salmonellosis because their immune systems are generally weaker than the average person. For this reason, and because there is always a risk that salmonella is present on eggs, it is highly recommended not to serve raw or partially cooked eggs to vulnerable people, unless pasteurised egg is used. See the Excellent eggs for vulnerable populations poster (PDF 748KB).

If you think you have salmonella infection, please see your doctor. For more information on Salmonella infection see You’ve got what? – Salmonella infection.

Preventing salmonella infection

Salmonella infection, in most cases, can be prevented by using good hygiene practices when storing and handling eggs. These hygiene practices are detailed on the following:

  1. 2017 Annual Report, Communicable Disease Control Branch, Disease Surveillance & Investigation Section, June 2019 (PDF 610KB)