Doctor's Note

Egg-borne Salmonella is relatively new disease. Our grandparents could drink eggnog and eat raw cookie dough with wild abandon without fear of joining the more than a thousand Americans who die every year from Salmonella poisoning. Before the industrial intensification of egg production, Salmonella Enteritidis was not even found in eggs in the United States.  By the beginning of the 21st century, however, Salmonella Enteritidis-contaminated eggs were sickening an estimated 182,000 Americans annually. Factory farming practices such as forced starvation molting, feeding live hens "spent hen meal," and overcrowidng hens into barren "battery" cages so small they can't even spread their wings have contributed to the epidemic of egg-borne Salmonella poisoning.

In fact just today a story broke on Good Morning America about Sparboe Farms, our country's fifth largest egg producer and supplier (until today) for McDonald’s Egg McMuffins. An undercover investigation found what the FDA noted were serious violations of federal Salmonella regulations. See my other Factory Farming Practices videos for more on the subject.

For more context, read the associated blog posts: Eggs, Cigarettes, and Atherosclerosis and Why Is Selling Salmonella-Tainted Chicken Legal?

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. Be sure to check out all the videos on Salmonella and eggs.

  • berensen75

    When I was growing up, I ate raw cake batter and I never got sick from Salmonella. How do you explain that?

    • Michael Greger M.D.

      Egg-borne Salmonella is relatively new disease. Our grandparents could drink eggnog and eat raw cookie dough with wild abandon without fear of joining the more than a thousand Americans who die every year from Salmonella poisoning. Before the industrial intensification of egg production, Salmonella Enteritidis was not even found in eggs in the United States. By the beginning of the 21st century, however, Salmonella Enteritidis-contaminated eggs were sickening an estimated 182,000 Americans annually. Factory farming practices such as forced starvation molting, feeding live hens “spent hen meal,” and overcrowing hens into barren “battery” cages so small they can’t even spread their wings have contributed to the epidemic of egg-borne Salmonella poisoning.

      In fact just today a story broke on Good Morning America about Sparboe Farms, our country’s fifth largest egg producer and supplier (until today) for McDonald’s Egg McMuffins. And undercover investigation found what the FDA noted were serious violations of federal Salmonella regulations. See my other Factory Farming Practices videos for more on the subject.

  • catmk

    I’m a docent at a farm where schools come for field trips. I take kindergarteners through a chicken coop and I pick up a freshly laid egg and let each child touch it. Am I putting the children and myself at risk?

    • DrDons

      You could lower the risk as long as hands are washed well after handling the eggs. However, studies on hand washing in medical personnel show that we don’t do a very good job at washing our hands in that when we lather up we miss areas. I imagine if we studied kindergarteners it would be worse. So I would recommend avoiding the practice. I have two other concerns as a primary care physician. The first is that you may be encouraging kindergarteners and adults to consume eggs which is definitely not healthy. For further information see http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/is-one-egg-a-day-too-much/ and http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/chicken-eggs-and-inflammation/. My second is that the kindergarteners may not get an accurate picture of the conditions that most eggs are produced in this country. Field trips with the added expertise of docents are a great way to learn. Hopefully your farm can include some tours of plants growing and their value in human nutrition.

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Please also check out my associated blog post, Poultry and Penis Cancer!

  • Jim

    I think I read somewhere that salmonella is only in the egg white and not in the yolk. Is that correct?

    • Toxins

       The salmonella is typically found on the shell of the egg. When you crack it that’s how the inside of the egg may get exposed.

      • dogulas

        Doesn’t a low enough dose of bacterial infection, like salmonella, not cause issues? I’ve always understood it to be a matter of “how much” to be the issue. Like if I got a couple hundred salmonella bacteria in me, it should be fine unless I have a compromised immune system, but that if I have a significant amount of raw chicken, then we’re talking. No?

        • Toxins

          Yes of course, I am not a microbiologist but I do remember that from microbiology. I am not sure how much is needed to result in disease, not a copious amount I assume. If raw chicken touches something and you touch that surface, developing the disease is possible, and that’s usually how it spreads.

  • bill

    are organic eggs cage free good for you