Leave No Egg Uncooked

In recent months, SRxA’s Word on Health has noticed a flurry of Internet sites touting raw egg drinks or shakes as “primal and powerful,” with others suggesting uncooked eggs be blended with vanilla or avocado for a tasty, healthy snack.  Such sites are rife with comments insisting that the connection between raw eggs and salmonella is a myth.

Suzy Weems, Ph.D., a national food expert and chair of Baylor University’s family and consumer sciences department, has this advice for health-seekers: “Under no circumstances eat a raw egg.”

While only a tiny percentage of eggs are contaminated, virtually every egg has had some contact with salmonella. Because the bacteria can lead to food poisoning and the fever, diarrhea and dehydration that accompany it “it’s best to be proactive,” cautions Weems.

Extolling the virtues of raw eggs is nothing new.  Nutrition guru Bernarr Macfadden advocated them as far back as the 1890s while modern proponents claim that heating the egg changes its chemical shape and destroys many of its nutrients and proteins.

Although relatively few people are tempted to wolf down raw eggs, those who love eating raw cookie dough need to be aware that it too is risky because it contains uncooked eggs.

There are a lot of old recipes floating around that call for raw eggs, but people need to realize if the recipe is based on one from when Grandma gathered her eggs, then Grandma gathered them locally. There wasn’t much of a time lag,” Weems said. “Now, eggs are much more likely to sit for a time before being used, and that gives salmonella the chance to grow.”

Risk of salmonella contamination lessens with eggs from cage-free, organically fed chickens, and salmonella generally is not life-threatening. Most at risk are children, senior citizens, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems.

So, the bottom line – eggs can still be incredible, just make sure they’re cooked.

Not so Rotten Eggs!

As someone who stood in line for 3 hours to receive my H1N1 vaccine last year, only to be turned away by an officious clipboard wielding nurse, this Word on Health blogger just had an “I told you so” moment!

According to new recommendations by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI), anyone with a history of suspected egg allergy should first be evaluated by an allergist or immunologist for appropriate testing and diagnosis but can probably receive the vaccination.

Matthew J. Greenhawt, M.D., and James T. Li, M.D., Ph.D., from the Department of Internal Medicine at Mayo Clinic, have co-authored the guidelines based on recent studies that show that even the most egg-allergic individuals can receive the flu vaccine safely under the care of their allergist/immunologist.

As I know only too well, in the past, people with egg allergy were told they could not have the flu vaccine because it contained egg protein which could potentially trigger an allergic reaction. However new research shows that not only do flu vaccines contain only tiny amounts of egg protein, the vast majority people with egg allergies don’t react.  Indeed it seems that many people with diagnosed or suspected egg allergy can receive the influenza vaccination successfully, if simple precautions are followed.

These include:

  • Anyone with a history of suspected egg allergy should first be evaluated by an allergist or immunologist for appropriate testing and diagnosis
  • Patients with a confirmed egg allergy can then receive the vaccine safely using one of two protocols: a two-step graded challenge or a single, age-appropriate dose

It is not necessary to withhold influenza vaccination from egg-allergic patients,” says Greenhawt. “Our recommendations provide two flexible approaches to vaccination. Each approach is backed with recent evidence that it is safe. Most allergists should be able to identify with one of our recommended approaches and, as such, be able to vaccinate their egg-allergic patients with confidence.”

So, Nah! Nah! Na! Nah! Nah! to you officious nurse.  Who has egg on their face now?

Do you have vaccine stories to share?  Word on Health would like to hear them.