Thursday, August 23, 2012

Eggs: To Wash or not to Wash... That is the question

In response to several comments when my article about egg preservation hit Modern Survival Blog I am writing 2 posts one on washing Vs Non-washing of eggs.  Many people THINK that if you have clean nest boxes you do not have to wash your eggs.  This is not true!!  No matter how clean your nest boxes or no matter that you have 20 boxes for your hens to lay in you still have a good chance of either Salmonella or E. Coli.  There are a number of research papers floating around the net to help you understand.  I will recite a few though and hopefully the information will help everyone to be safer in handling fresh eggs.

Remember that harmful pathogens (bacteria) invisible to the naked eye.  This means that you can have harmfull pathogens covering everything in your kitchen and you would have no way of knowing it unless you cultured the surfaces.  Bacteria can be introduced to another surface just by touching the contaminated item to the other surface.  This is cross contamination.  Then if you touch something else like your hand or a towel to that contaminated surface then that item becomes infected.  In turn anything that any ionfected item comes into contact with then also becomes infected.  The amount of infected items grows exponetially.  So if you bring in your beautiful eggs and lay them on your counter while you fix a place in your fridge then pick them up you have contaminated your counter and your hands.  If you did not wash your hands before touching the handle on your fridge you have potentially contaminated the fridge handle and those bacteria can be transferred to anyone elses hands that touches the fridge and then everything that they in turn touch.

Salmonella can live inside and outside the chicken.  Not just inside the intestines.  It can actually be carried on the feet and on the feathers of the chicken.  It does not magically only appear in feces and not be anywhere else.  Here is an excerpt from the CDC that shows it can live on the feathers and the feet:
Live poultry may have Salmonella germs in their droppings and on their bodies (feathers, feet, and beaks) even when they appear healthy and clean. The germs can also get on cages, coops, hay, plants, and soil in the area where the birds live and roam. Additionally, the germs can be found on the hands, shoes, and clothing of those who handle the birds or work or play where they live and roam.

Now lets think about this information... A chicken may have salmonella on its feathers when it sits on the nest those feathers are touching the nest and no matter how clean it looks it is still contaminated.  My chickens all have a favorite nest.  There are 6 nests and only two ever have eggs in them.  So then the next chicken gets into the nest and that chicken gets it on their feathers and on and on.  Guess what has happened to those beautiful "clean" eggs that are also in that nest.

It can also actually live in the Ova of a chicken Here is an excerpt from a documented research:
Salmonella were isolated from the ceca of 161 chickens, the cecal tonsils of 148 chickens, the organ pool of 150 chickens, and the ovary-oviduct pool of 110 chickens.  Avian Diseases © 1993 American Association of Avian Pathologists

This means that the salmonella was present in the ovaries of the chickens prior to it laying an egg.  This in turn means that the egg was contaminated with salmonella no matter how clean it looks to the naked eye.

Salmonella is not a problem only in commercial chickens.  If it is a live chicken then the chance of salmonella is there no matter what kind of chicken or where it lives.

There are literally hundreds of research papers with scientific evidence documenting the need to wash eggs.  I use antibacterial dish soap to wash mine as it is effective and non-toxic.  You must replace the bloom that you wash off in order for the eggs to keep. I use mineral oil. 

The old adage of it's better to be safe than sorry fits here....  Especcialy in a survive or die situation where medical treatment may not be readilly available.

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