Eggs are a good source of protein, but it's important to store, handle and prepare them properly.
Eggs are a good choice as part of a healthy, balanced diet. As well as being a source of protein, they also contain vitamins and minerals. They can be part of a healthy meal that's quick and easy to make.
However, to avoid any risk of food poisoning , it's important to always buy eggs from a reputable supplier, and to ensure you store, handle and cook the eggs properly.
This advice especially applies to people in vulnerable groups, including the very young, the unwell, pregnant women and elderly people.
Eggs and your diet
Eggs are a good source of:
How many eggs is it safe to eat?
There is no recommended limit on how many eggs people should eat.
Eggs can be enjoyed as part of a healthy, balanced diet, but it's best to cook them without adding salt or fat. For example:
- hard-boiled or poached, without added salt
- scrambled without butter, which is high in saturated fat
Frying eggs can increase their fat content by around 50%.
To get the nutrients you need, make sure you eat as varied a diet as possible. You can learn more about healthy eating in A balanced diet.
Eggs and cholesterol
Having high cholesterol levels in our blood increases our risk of heart disease.
Although eggs contain cholesterol, the amount of saturated fat we eat has more effect on the amount of cholesterol in our blood than the cholesterol we get from eating eggs.
If your doctor or health professional has told you to watch your cholesterol levels, your priority should be to cut down on saturated fat across your diet. You can get advice in Eat less saturated fat.
If you are eating a balanced diet, you only need to cut down on eggs if you have been told to do so by your doctor or dietitian.
Raw eggs and food poisoning
Eating raw eggs, eggs with runny yolks, or any food containing raw eggs that is uncooked or only lightly cooked can cause food poisoning , especially in anyone who is in an "at risk" group. This includes:
- babies and toddlers
- elderly people
- pregnant women
- people who are already unwell
This is because eggs may contain salmonella bacteria, which can cause serious illness.
When eating raw or lightly cooked eggs, using pasteurised eggs minimises this risk, because the pasteurisation process kills salmonella.
Pasteurisation is a heat treatment that uses high temperatures to kill bacteria. However, most eggs you can buy in the shops are not pasteurised. Pasteurised eggs often come in liquid, dried or frozen form.
If you're preparing food – especially food that won’t be cooked or will only be lightly cooked – for people who are in an "at risk" group, you can choose pasteurised eggs as the safest option.
When using unpasteurised eggs, bear in mind the importance of:
- storing eggs safely
- avoiding the spread of bacteria from eggs to other food, utensils or work surfaces
- cooking eggs properly – ensuring the white and yolk are solid will kill any bacteria
People who are not in vulnerable groups who eat soft-boiled eggs or foods containing lightly cooked eggs should not experience any health problems, but cooking eggs thoroughly is the safest option if you are concerned about food poisoning.
Foods containing raw eggs
Foods that are made with raw eggs and then not cooked, or only lightly cooked, can cause food poisoning. This is because any bacteria in the eggs won't be killed.
Any of the following might contain raw eggs:
- homemade mayonnaise
- hollandaise and béarnaise sauces
- salad dressings
- ice cream
If you are making these foods yourself, using pasteurised eggs is the safest choice.
Most commercially produced mayonnaise, salad dressings, sauces, ice cream, desserts or ready-made icing are made with pasteurised eggs. Check the label, or contact the manufacturer if you are unclear whether the food was made with pasteurised eggs.
If you're concerned about raw egg when eating out or buying food, ask the person serving you.
Storing eggs safely
Storing eggs safely helps to make sure the bacteria from the eggs and eggshells do not spread.
Here are some tips to help you store your eggs safely:
- Store eggs in a cool, dry place – ideally in the fridge. Eggs need to be stored at a constant temperature below 20C and, in most domestic kitchens, the fridge is the best place to keep them.
- Store eggs away from other foods. It's a good idea to use your fridge's egg tray, if you have one, because this helps to keep eggs separate.
- Eat dishes containing eggs as soon as possible after you've prepared them. If you're not planning to eat them straight away, cool them quickly and then keep them in the fridge for up to two days. Cakes can be safely stored somewhere cool and dry, as long as they don't contain any additions, such as custard or cream.
- If you have a hard-boiled egg you want to keep in the fridge, don't leave it for more than two days.
Avoiding the spread of bacteria
Bacteria can spread very easily from eggs to other foods, as well as to hands, utensils and worktops.
There can be bacteria on the shell as well as inside the egg, so take care when handling them.
These tips can help avoid the spread of bacteria:
- Keep eggs away from other foods, both when they are in the shell and after you have cracked them.
- Be careful not to splash egg onto other foods, worktops or dishes.
- Always wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap, and then dry them after touching or working with eggs.
- Clean surfaces, dishes and utensils thoroughly using warm soapy water after working with eggs.
- Don't use eggs with damaged shells, because dirt or bacteria might have got inside them.
Find out more about how to store food safely.
'Best before' dates of eggs
Eggs have a shelf life of 28 days (from date laid to their "best before" date). Eggs can be eaten a day or two after their "best before" date as long as they are cooked thoroughly until both yolk and white are solid, or if they are used in dishes where they will be fully cooked, such as a cake.
Cooking eggs until both the white and yolk are solid will kill any bacteria, such as salmonella.
People who are in "at-risk" groups should only eat eggs, or food containing eggs, that have been thoroughly cooked.