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Salmonella and pregnancy – Can I eat raw or soft Eggs whilst Pregnant?

Updated on January 7, 2012

Eggs in Pregnancy

Eggs are safe it they are thoroughly cooked.
Eggs are safe it they are thoroughly cooked.

Can I eat raw or soft eggs whilst pregnant?

I'll start by saying it is not advised to eat raw or soft eggs whilst pregnant, the reason for this is that your bodies immune system focuses on protecting your unborn child, which leaves you more vulnerable. This means you are more likely to catch foodbourne infections such as Salmonella which will also most likely hit you harder. But it won''t directly harm your unborn child.

So in this article we;ll talk about salmonella, food poisoning and how to minimise the risks associated with eggs and pregnancy. We'll Start by looking at salmonella.



Salmonellosis is the infection caused by the bacteria Salmonella which are found in high concentrations of about 1% of eggs. Most people develop typical food poisoning symptoms including fever, diarrhoea, vomiting and abdominal cramps, these symptoms usually develop between 12 and 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts 4-7 days and the majority of people recover without any need for treatment. The infection can cause such sever diarrhoea that they may need to be hospitalised, where it will be promptly treated with antibiotics. Those in a high risk group including pregnant women are most likely to have sever illness.

Salmonellosis has about 40,000 reported cases in the US per year, however the milder cases likely go unreported, it has been estimated by the CDC that the actual number of cases could be thirty times greater than those reported. There are different kinds of Salmonella bacteria including, Salmonella serotype Typhimurium and Salmonella serotype Enteritidisa. About 400 people per annum die from salmonellosis.

What is Salmonella?

Excellent Reading for Nutrition and Pregnancy

Eggs whilst Pregnant

As you have read from the above Salmonellosis is not fun, especially the more severe forms and the fact that you are pregnant increases your chances of getting the more serious symptoms, so it is advised that you avoid raw or under cooked eggs. Things to avoid include sorbets, ice creams, meringues, mousses, home-made mayonnaise or desserts such as tiramisu. These foods often contain raw eggs. Mayonnaise brought from a shop in a jar is often made from pasteurised eggs so is normally fine, but be sure to check the label.

If you want to make royal icing, mayo or other recipes that have raw eggs don't worry it won't stop you, just use pasteurised eggs instead.

With regards to your eggs in order to be sure to prevent infection ensure that your eggs are cooked thoroughly all the way through, this means:

  • Poach an egg until white all the way through and the yolk is completely solid, this will normally take about 5 minutes for a medium sized egg

  • Fry Eggs on both sides.

  • Boil eggs for a minimum of 7 minutes

The other thing that you should do to minimise the risk of a Salmonella infection include:

  • Store eggs where they can't come into contact with other foods, ideally in the fridge in a separate egg tray.

  • Don't use eggs that are past their best-before date.

  • Don't use eggs with damaged shells, as they may contain bacteria.

  • Take care not to splash raw egg onto other food, utensils or surfaces when you're cooking.

  • Finally good kitchen hygiene, including washing hands after handling eggs, wash all utensils thoroughly after cooking with eggs and wash down all surfaces with hot soapy water or anti-bacterial spray,

Hope this explains why you should avoid raw or undercooked eggs whilst pregnant and give you ways to minimise risk, the links below are some interesting research articles on Salmonella and Pregnancy.


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