Homemade ice cream is a treat many of us look forward to in summer. But each year that same treat causes many cases of Salmonella. The ingredient responsible? Usually raw or undercooked eggs.
Eggs are a standard ingredient in most homemade ice cream recipes. They add flavor and color, prevent ice crystallization, and make for that smooth and creamy texture. To prevent this ingredient from causing harmful infections, just follow these guidelines for safe cooking and handling.
Cooking the Egg Base
At the FDA, we advise consumers to start with a cooked egg base for ice cream. This is especially important if you’re serving people at high risk for foodborne infections: infants, older adults, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems.
To make a cooked egg base (also known as a custard base):
- Combine eggs and milk as indicated in the recipe. (Other ingredients, such as sugar, may be added at this step.)
- Cook the mixture gently to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F, stirring constantly. The cooking will destroy Salmonella, if present. Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of the mixture. At this temperature, the mixture will firmly coat a metal spoon (but please don’t lick the spoon if the custard is not fully cooked!).
- After cooking, chill the mixture before adding other ingredients and freezing.
You can also use egg substitute products or pasteurized eggs in your ice cream, or you can find a recipe without eggs.
- With the egg substitute products, you might have to experiment a bit with the recipe to figure out the right amount to add for the best flavor.
- Pasteurized eggs can be substituted in recipes that call for uncooked eggs. Commercial pasteurization of eggs is a heat process at low temperatures that destroys any Salmonella that might be present, without having a noticeable effect on flavor or nutritional content. These are available at some supermarkets for a slightly higher cost per dozen. Even if you’re using pasteurized eggs for your ice cream, both the FDA and the USDA recommend starting with a cooked egg base for optimal safety.
So, by following these safe handling and proper cooking practices, you can enjoy refreshing, tasty homemade ice cream without worrying about making anyone sick!
Father’s Day is just around the corner. Many of us will celebrate with a day of outdoor activities and tasty meats from the grill. The chef of your household might have the skills to cook the perfect burger, but do they know how to cook a delicious and safe burger? It’s easy if you follow these simple steps.
Step 1: Safe Thawing
If meat and poultry is frozen, be sure to thaw it before grilling so that it will cook more evenly. Never thaw food at room temperature; you need to keep food out of the Danger Zone (between 40 °F - 140 °F) to keep bacteria from growing to dangerous levels.
The safe ways to thaw food are:
- In the refrigerator
- In cold water
- In the microwave. Plan to grill the meat immediately because some areas may begin to cook during the defrosting.
For more details, see The Big Thaw: Safe Defrosting Methods for Consumers or listen to our podcast on thawing.
Step 2: Safe Marinating
For many chefs, a great marinade is the secret ingredient that turns a tough piece of meat into one that’s moist, tender, and tasty. Here’s how to do it safely:
- Always marinate food in the refrigerator to keep it out of the Danger Zone.
- If you’re planning ahead, you can marinate chicken up to 2 days and beef up to 5 days in the refrigerator.
- Never use the leftover marinade as a sauce unless you bring it to a boil first for one minute.
Listen to our podcast on marinating for tips on containers for marinating, amounts to use, and more.
Step 3: Safe Grilling
The secret to safe grilling is to use a food thermometer. It’s the only way to be sure that the food is safely cooked. Check out our Using a Food Thermometer blog post for details.
Step 4: Safe Serving
What’s one of the most common mistakes that people make when they’re grilling? They put the safely cooked food on the same platter that held the raw meat or poultry. Don’t ever do this! When taking food off the grill, always use a clean platter. Otherwise, any harmful bacteria present in the raw meat juices could contaminate your cooked food.
Step 5: Safe Storing
If you have any leftovers, chill them promptly in shallow containers in a cooler or refrigerator. Discard any food left out for more than 2 hours. If it’s hot (over 90 °F), discard food left out for more than 1 hour.
If you have questions about grilling, feel free to submit them here. But, if you need an answer quickly, one of the following is your best bet:
- Phone: Call USDA's toll-free Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854).
- Online: Use our automated system, Ask Karen, to search our knowledgebase, submit a question, or participate in live chat.
- Email: Send your question to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since the nationwide alfalfa sprout recall and the related Salmonella outbreak were announced on May 21, we have received a number of questions from consumers who are concerned about eating sprouts. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions:
Why are people getting sick from alfalfa sprouts?
One of the big reasons is that alfalfa sprouts are not cooked. Like any fresh produce that is consumed raw or lightly cooked, raw sprouts carry a risk of foodborne illness.
What makes raw sprouts different from other raw produce?
The big difference is that seeds and beans need warm, humid conditions to sprout and grow. These are the same conditions that are ideal for bacteria to grow, including dangerous bacteria like Salmonella if they are present.
Is it safer to grow my own sprouts at home?
Not necessarily. In outbreaks associated with sprouts, the seed is typically the source of the dangerous bacteria. If just a few of these bacteria are present, either in the seed or on its surface, they can grow to high levels during sprouting, even if you’re growing them under sanitary conditions at home.
Are raw sprouts riskier for certain groups of people?
Yes. In general, certain groups of people are at higher risk for severe foodborne illness: pregnant women, children, the elderly, and anyone whose immune system is weakened. These groups should avoid eating raw or lightly cooked sprouts as well as and other high risk foods, such as unpasteurized milk and juices, raw fish and shellfish, and soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk.
I think I got sick from eating sprouts. What should I do?
Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12–72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days. In recent years, sprouts have also been associated with outbreaks of E. coli and Listeria. If you think you have a foodborne illness, call your doctor.
If I’m a healthy adult, do I need to take precautions with sprouts?
Cooking kills harmful bacteria, so cooking sprouts thoroughly will reduce the risk of illness. If you’re eating out, you may want to consider asking that raw sprouts not be added to your salad or sandwich.
If you choose to eat raw sprouts, follow these tips:
- Buy only sprouts kept at refrigerator temperature. Select crisp-looking sprouts with the buds attached. Avoid musty-smelling, dark, or slimy-looking sprouts.
- Refrigerate sprouts at home. Refrigerators should be set to maintain a temperature of 40° F or below.
- Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw foods.
- Rinse sprouts thoroughly with water before use. Rinsing can help remove surface dirt. Do not use soap or other detergents.
For more information on sprouts, including links to the latest recall and outbreak information, see Sprouts: What You Should Know.