Homemade eggnog carries risk of salmonella, avian flu

By • Published: December 23rd, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

What is it about the holidays that makes us do crazy things… such as waking before dawn to wait in line outside a store, climbing onto an icy roof to hang giant reindeer lights or drinking raw eggs?

That’s right… drinking raw eggs. Did you know many eggnog recipes call for uncooked eggs, a food safety no-no? They can carry dangerous germs, such as salmonella bacteria.

But there are ways to enjoy eggnog without risking your health. First, you can stick to store-bought varieties of the beverage. They’re pasteurized and won’t make you ill.

Or, if homemade eggnog is your preference, use pasteurized eggs to make it. Most eggs sold in stores are not pasteurized, so be sure you look carefully to find some that are.

You may wonder if adding alcohol to your eggnog will kill the germs. Researchers from the Rockefeller University made a batch of eggnog infested with salmonella and added alcohol. The beverage was salmonella-free after three weeks of refrigeration. While the experiment made for some interesting informal science, it’s not a foolproof method for safety. The researchers didn’t test for other germs, and the safety of drinking eggnog that’s three weeks old seems questionable.

Plus, adding alcohol to eggnog increases the caloric content of an already fattening drink. And, because you never should drive after drinking, you’ll need a designated driver or taxi cab to get home from that holiday party.

Some recipes do call for gently heating an egg and milk mixture to a temperature of 160 degrees. But want the quickest, easiest way to enjoy a safe glass of this holiday favorite? Pick up a bottle at the store. You won’t get salmonella, and you might even save enough time to relax by the fireplace for a few minutes… with a glass of eggnog.