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Food Safety Expert: Americans Not Aware of Ongoing Risk & Complications of Salmonella Poisoning
Date:3/12/2009

National Survey Reveals Growing Concern Over What's Safe to Eat and Who's Most At Risk

LANSING, Ill., March 12 /PRNewswire/ -- With the advent of new food safety legislation under debate in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, a new national survey reveals that Americans are more concerned than ever when it comes to choosing what's safe to eat, yet are alarmingly unaware of the long-term side effects of Salmonella, one of the most common food-borne illnesses.

Conducted by TNS Global and National Pasteurized Eggs (NPE), the survey of 1,000 Americans revealed almost half (47 percent) are more concerned about food safety than they were before last year's peanut butter-related Salmonella outbreak. However, more than 87 percent of Americans cannot identify the more serious, long-term affects of Salmonella poisoning, such as heart damage, joint pain, bone marrow infection and even meningitis.

More surprisingly, most didn't know which groups or who is most at risk. According to the survey, nearly half of all Americans are unaware that preschool children and pregnant women are at high risk for long-term complications from Salmonella illness, which is responsible for 1.4 million illnesses, 15,000 hospitalizations and 400 deaths in the U.S. annually, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Americans Still Eating Undercooked Eggs

"Most Americans can accurately identify the troublesome short-term risks, but not necessarily long-term side effects of Salmonella exposure, or the groups most at risk for complications from even a mild case of the disease," said Jeff Nelken, a food safety expert based in California. "In order to be safe consumers of food, we need to be aware of the foods that can lead to Salmonella poisoning."

According to the study, more than 93 percent of Americans consume eggs, potentially one of the most dangerous foods in terms of food-borne illness, according to Nelken. Additionally, three out of 10 Americans still eat their eggs in styles that are undercooked such as over easy and sunnyside up and seven of 10 Americans eat scrambled eggs, which can also pose a risk if they are served softly scrambled.

"These new statistics show Americans continue to hold taste and tradition over risk of illness or worse," says Nelken. "While eggs are nutritionally dense and a great food item, there is a great risk of contracting Salmonella poisoning from not only undercooking, but cross contamination in the kitchen."

The best way to deal with Salmonella in foods is to remove the risk before it enters the kitchen, Nelken said. He recommends using only pasteurized shell or liquid eggs to eliminate potential cross contamination.

Nelken further explains that consumers and restaurants must realize individuals in high risk groups, including pregnant women; children under age ten; those 55 and older and even those with temporarily compromised immune systems, who eat undercooked foods can experience long-term dire consequences and not just one bad night. He cautions, this is a lesson you don't want to learn first-hand. Illnesses such as those from Salmonella can be virtually eliminated if precautions are taken and foods are prepared and cooked properly.

    Some tips from Nelken to ensure food safety when prepping and cooking:

    1.  Cook your foods to the proper temperatures, eggs need to reach 160
    degrees throughout.  Use a thermometer to be sure.

    2.  Purchase pasteurized eggs--make sure the label says pasteurized--and
    enjoy a full range of foods such as eggs over easy or Caesar salad,
    without the risk associated with non-pasteurized eggs.

    3.  Continually wash your hands to reduce the risk of contamination.

    4.  Use separate serving dishes.  Cross contamination is easy to correct.
    Use different dishes for preparation than for serving to eliminate the
    risk of Salmonella and other illnesses.

    5.  Don't be afraid to ask how food is prepared when dining out.   Make
    sure kitchens practice food safety preparation.  Kitchens should not save
    egg wash, use batter containing eggs from one meal to the next or pool
    eggs.  Don't eat eggs that are prepared in lightly cooked styles unless
    pasteurized shell eggs are used.

The TNS survey was conducted in February 2009, with 1,000 Americans. For more survey information, visit www.safeeggs.com.

How Americans eat their eggs*

    Scrambled Eggs        74.4 % (note-only hard cooked scrambled reach 160
     degrees)
    Hard Boiled Eggs      45.1 %
    Eggs Over Easy        28.1 % **
    Eggs Over Medium      24.1% **
    Sunnyside Up          17.1 % **
    Eggs Benedict         8.8 % **
    Soft Boiled Eggs      7.1 % **
    Soft Poached Eggs     7.0 %  **
    Basted Eggs           2.7 %  **


    * Survey respondents were given option to choose multiple answers in
    response to this question.

    * * Indicates eggs that are not cooked to 160 degrees.


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SOURCE National Pasteurized Eggs
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