I was watching a programme the other day where a chef was preparing Steak Tartare.. something that I have never been able to eat. I am not a fan of uncooked meat or raw eggs, even when I know they have been sourced from organic farms with a good reputation.
Additionally I don’t want to eat raw food that has been handled by human hands however many times they might have been washed beforehand.
I have watched several videos of chefs preparing steak tartare on Youtube and only one was wearing gloves during the preparation!
This is also why I rarely have salad when I am in a restaurant and ask for the garnish to be left off.. I have had a couple of bad experiences and now only eat cooked food outside of my own kitchen. As summer allegedly warms up this month, more of us will be eating salads and they usually come with an egg.
Always wash your salad vegetables thoroughly and prepare yourself. The bags of salad have been through some human hands during processing and whilst most will wear gloves there is no guarantee. Also, any chopped salad will have lost over half its nutritional value and will lose more in the days that follow in the bag on the shelves of the supermarket.
Eggs are wonderfully nutritious but should be prepared carefully.
Food is wonderful. Nutritious food is essential for our health and well being but we must also have a healthy respect for food. Any living organism however nutritious can also become infected with bacteria and other pathogens that can be harmful to us.
In this post I am going to cover Salmonella Enteritidis, which is a common cause for gastric upsets in people of all ages. It is found in raw poultry, meats and some dairy, especially if not pasturised and sold as raw milk. It can also be caught by drinking contaminated water usually near to farming land.
The most common source of Salmonella is in eggs.
There has been a great deal of publicity over the last 30 years as to the level of infection in the eggs that we buy in our supermarkets or at our local corner shop. Recently it has been declared safe to eat runny boiled eggs but one of the problems is that you may not know where your eggs have originated.
For example it was recently reported that eggs imported from Poland were found to have high levels of salmonella, and eating them raw or with a runny yolk could put you at risk of infection.
In the USA in 2018 200 million eggs were recalled due to outbreaks of salmonella poisoning and this is just a reported case: USA Today
These eggs are not all from mass producing egg farms where birds are kept in appalling conditions. Salmonella is also found in organic free range eggs and even personal back-yard chickens.
Here are some numbers with regard to the eggs on sale in the UK
90% of eggs sold in the UK have the Red Lion quality mark but 10% of the eggs sold in the UK do not. Interestingly the British Lion Eggs quality mark site only states “The British Lion scheme has drastically reduced the presence of salmonella from UK eggs since its launch in 1998”.
It does not claim that eggs are salmonella free!
That 10% is likely to be from producers who have less than 50 laying hens and not liable to register their business.
To put this into perspective there are an estimated 36 million eggs consumed each day in the UK – that means that 10% or 3.5 million eggs are not registered and carry a Red Lion quality mark.
Here is the link to the regulation if you wish to read them. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/eggs-trade-regulations
There are a few exceptions. The regulations do not apply in full to hen eggs sold directly to the consumer for their own use:
- by the producer on their own farm
- by the producer through door-to-door selling
- by the producer in a local public market – Farm Markets
The other concern that I have, is that there are millions of eggs used in industrially produced foods that may or may not have come from regulated sources. Whilst they are cooked and not raw it still raises health concerns as far as I am concerned.
My philosophy is that all food should be treated with respect and that no living organism is completely germ or parasite free. We as humans are host to a number of parasitic infections and should accept that the food we consume is likely to be so too.
Err on the side of caution and do not take risks with any food that you consume. Buy eggs that have some guarantees attached. You will pay a bit extra for organic eggs which I buy but considering the nutritional value of a meal prepared for a family of four, it is one of the cheapest proteins you can buy. But, even with organic eggs it is not worth taking the risk nor is eating your own eggs from the chickens in your back garden.
Preparing Eggs Safely
Provided the egg is thoroughly cooked the bacteria will be killed, but if you use raw eggs or prefer your eggs under cooked you could be putting yourself at risk. The most likely to suffer from the resulting gastric enteritis are the elderly, babies and people who have an impaired immune system.
The symptoms associated with Salmonella poisoning and treatment are:
- A fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhoea beginning 12 to 72 hours after eating the infected food.
- The illness lasts between 4 and 7 days and the biggest danger in the elderly and babies is dehydration and loss of essential nutrients.
- The other risk is that the infection may spread from the intestines into the bloodstream and of course then has access to the entire body.
- It is essential that medical attention is sought if any stomach upset lasts for more than 24 hours in the elderly, babies or young children and 48 hours in a normally healthy adult.
- It is very important that dehydration is prevented by increasing fluid levels – room temperature water, which is sipped, can often be kept down.
- You can obtain solutions from a chemist that will help re-establish the electrolyte balance in the system and replace essential nutrients that have been lost.
How do eggs become infected?
Salmonella infects the ovaries of healthy hens and contaminates the eggs before the shells are formed. Salmonella also lives in the intestines of other animals in the food chain and if food is not stored correctly or cooked thoroughly then it can be passed to humans.
Points to remember
- If salmonella is present in an egg, if it is refrigerated it will prevent the salmonella from increasing in number.
- Do not use cracked eggs.
- Eat eggs as soon as they are cooked do not keep warm for longer than an hour or two at a time.
- Always refrigerate leftovers.
- Do not eat food at home or in restaurants that contain raw eggs such as ice cream or steak tartar.
- Be aware that some dressings when you eat out in restaurants are made with raw egg such as Hollandaise sauce or Caesar dressing.
- All raw foods should be treated with care especially when storing in your fridge with other foods.
- Always make sure that chicken and meat are wrapped carefully and cannot drip on to a shelf below.
- Always clean any surfaces that have been used to prepare meats and poultry thoroughly after use with very hot water and a suitable anti-bacterial cleaning product.
- Always cook meat, poultry, eggs to the right temperature and be aware that eating meat rare carries a risk.
- Always wash your hands with hot water and soap after preparing raw meat, poultry or eggs.
I have read a number of articles from those who are advocates of having a raw egg every day and using them in food preparation. Most of the time if you are fit and healthy your body will deal with low levels of salmonella, but if you are very young, have a compromised immune system, are elderly or perhaps pregnant, I would still err on the side of caution and eat eggs and meats cooked.
And if you do cook your eggs… they are an amazingly rich source of nutrition.. so don’t stop eating them.. just make sure they are properly cooked!
Eggs are an excellent source of choline and selenium, and a good source of high-quality protein, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin B12, phosphorus and riboflavin.
PROTEIN – We are made of protein and very cell in our bodies and every function requires protein to survive, thrive and repair itself. It is involved in hormone manufacture, our soft tissue, bone strength, haemoglobin that combines with iron to carry oxygen around the body and the vitality and strength of our hair and nails. The body needs food to obtain protein and so including foods such as eggs and other protein rich foods is essential.
N.B It is easy to think that as protein is good for us that we should eat as much as we like. In fact the body can only handle around 10 to 15% of our daily intake as protein on a regular basis as the body goes into overload. Kidney’s in particular are vulnerable. This particular refers to animal based proteins.
CHOLINE: One of the few substances that can penetrate the brain membranes, raising levels of acetylcholine a neurotransmitter that may improve focus and memory. Acetylcholine is also necessary for stimulating the contraction of all muscles including the facial muscles. This may help maintain a youthful appearance. Choline also seems to help with controlling cholesterol, keeping arteries clear.
SELENIUM: A very important trace mineral that activates an antioxidant enzyme called glutathione peroxidase, which may help protect the body from cancer. It is vital for immune system function and may help prevent prostate cancer.
PHOSPHORUS: Essential for bone formation and production of red blood cells. Also needed for the production of ATP fuel for energy. Small amounts are involved in most of the chemical reactions throughout the body
VITAMIN B2: RIBOFLAVIN; Also essential for metabolising carbohydrates to produce ATP, and also fats, amino acids and proteins too. It is necessary to activate Vitamin B6 and Folic Acid. It works with enzymes in the liver to eliminate toxins.
VITAMIN B12: CYANOCOLBALAMIN; Essential for the efficient working of every cell in the body especially those with a rapid turnover rate and it prevents their degeneration. It works with B6 and Folic Acid to control Homocysteine levels in the blood. It is involved in the synthesis of DNA and the proper functioning of the Nervous system by maintaining myelin surrounding the nerves. It is involved in the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for resetting our biological clock’s rhythm when we change to a new time zone and aiding sleep patterns. It is used in the treatment of diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis, Anaemia, Low Blood Pressure, hearing disorders, asthma and allergies, infertility and cancer
VITAMIN D: CHOLECALCIFEROL; Essential for maintaining blood levels of calcium by increasing absorption from food and decreasing loss from urine. This maintains a balance preventing calcium from being removed from the stores in the bones. It also plays a role in maintaining a healthy immune system and blood cell formation. It may protect against prostate cancer. It is needed for adequate levels of insulin and may protect the body from Multiple Sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile diabetes.
VITAMIN E: TOCOPHEROL; As an antioxidant it protects cell membranes and other fat-soluble parts of the body such as LDL cholesterol from oxidative damage and blood vessels. It can be used topically for skin health and is involved in the reproductive system. It may help prevent circulatory problems that lead to heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease by preventing clots from forming. It improves the pulmonary function of the lungs and enhances the white blood cells ability to resist infection.
Thanks for dropping in and I hope you have found this useful… Sally.
My nutritional background
I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.
If you would like to browse by health books and fiction you can find them here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/