Is it safe to eat foods made with raw eggs while I’m pregnant? I’m craving real caesar salad.”
The USDA advises that pregnant women should not eat raw eggs due to the risk of salmonella contamination, and that all eggs should be cooked for at least six minutes to kill any bacteria, which means no real Caesar salad dressing, hollandaise sauce, dipping your sukiyaki or eggs over easy. But depending on your tolerance for risk, you might find this warning overly cautious. About 1 in 3,190 people in the U.S. are sickened by salmonella. So while the possibility is there, the likelihood that an egg might contain salmonella is extremely small — about .003%. On the other hand, salmonella is serious business, causing severe vomiting, diarrhea, high fever and a 65-85 percent increase in the risk of miscarriage and premature labor.
If you’re serious about your craving and worried about the risk, note that fresh eggs laid by chickens raised in a home coop are very unlikely to be contaminated. In the U.S., eggs are washed with soap and water before being packaged for sale. This washes off a membrane on the egg’s shell, one that keeps oxygen and bacteria out of the egg and makes the egg impervious to salmonella and other bacteria. The practice of egg washing is why eggs sold in America (and Japan, Australia and a few other countries) need to be refrigerated, but eggs from Europe or directly from the hen don’t need to be. While it’s possible for a backyard chicken to catch salmonella from contact with another animal or be infected if she comes from an infected hatchery, the odds are pretty miniscule.
So if your craving is keeping you up at night you might want to risk that salad, or if you’re very cautious, buy a chicken or befriend a farmerand go fresh!