What Are the Dangers of Eating Cracked Eggs?

There's nothing worse than unloading your groceries and finding a bunch of broken eggs in the carton. Here's what you need to know about whether you can eat cracked eggs and some egg safety guidelines you should follow to avoid falling sick.

Cracked eggs contain potentially dangerous bacteria and other pathogens.
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Eating cracked eggs can give you food poisoning or worse if your immunity isn’t 100 percent. Eggs that crack on the way home from the store are safe to eat; however, eggs that were already cracked before you bought them should be discarded.

Can You Eat Cracked Eggs?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes eggs as one of nature's most nutritious foods. Indeed, a medium-sized egg offers 5.53 grams of protein, 4.18 grams of fat and 0.32 grams of carbs.

After all, as explained by a March 2019 study published in the journal Nutrients, an egg contains all the nutrients required for an avian embryo to grow. The study notes that apart from macronutrients, eggs also contain several vitamins and minerals.

Read more: Nutrition Facts for One Egg

But are cracked eggs safe to eat? What should you do if you find broken eggs in the carton? A July 2017 study published in the Asian-Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences found that cracked eggs were severely compromised in quality.

However, even more serious than poor quality is the possibility of contamination. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) explains that eggs are sometimes contaminated by bacteria such as Salmonella, which can give you food poisoning. The FDA estimates that eating contaminated eggs causes 79,000 cases of food poisoning a year.

The FDA lists vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever as some of the symptoms of food poisoning. These symptoms can appear 12 to 72 hours after you consume the contaminated eggs and can last for up to seven days.

According to the FDA, certain groups of people may face even more serious consequences that can be life threatening. These groups include young children under the age of 5, adults over the age of 65, pregnant women and people whose immunity may not be strong, like people who have recently had an organ transplant or people with diabetes or HIV/AIDS.

So does that mean you have to throw away all the broken eggs in the carton? Not necessarily. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service states that you should never buy cracked eggs; however, if the eggs crack on the way home from the grocery store, you can break them into a clean container, cover it tightly and refrigerate it for up to two days.

Read more: Are Bagged Salad Greens Still Safe to Eat?

Egg Safety Guidelines

The CDC explains that while Salmonella contamination is more likely in cracked eggs, since the bacteria could be in the chicken coop and can enter the egg through the cracks, eggs can also get contaminated from the inside, before the shells are formed. These eggs will not appear damaged in any way but may still carry Salmonella.

It is therefore important that you follow egg safety guidelines when you buy, store and cook eggs. For starters, the FDA advises you buy only eggs that are refrigerated. Open the carton before you buy it and ensure that the eggs are clean and don't have any cracks in them. When you get home, put the eggs in the fridge immediately and make sure the fridge is set to a temperature lower than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

When you cook the eggs, the FDA says you should make sure that the whites and yolks are firm and not runny. The eggs should cross an internal temperature of 160 Fahrenheit, as measured by a food thermometer, to be considered safe to consume. After you cook the eggs, either serve them right away or transfer them to a shallow container and refrigerate them immediately.

Read more: How Do You Know if Milk Is Spoiled — and Is It Safe to Drink?

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