You may be surprised to find out that there are a number of egg based foods and sauces that call for either raw eggs or only minimal cooking or heating of the eggs. These include:
— Raw batter, filling, or cookie dough
— Eggnog and other egg-fortified beverages that are not thoroughly cooked
— Homemade and fresh-made dressings and sauces made with raw eggs
— Caesar salad dressing
— Bearnaise sauce
— Hollandaise sauce
— Aioli sauce
— Homemade Mayonnaise
— Homemade ice cream
California just recently changed its state law requiring the use of pasteurized eggs or pasteurized egg products in the preparation of of foods that are not cooked, effectively banning restaurants from serving raw, unpasteurized eggs or egg based foods. Many states will follow this requirement if they haven’t already. Check with you local Environmental Health Food Inspection Program.
The law in California states that for raw shell eggs that are prepared in response to a consumer’s order and for immediate service, the eggs must be heated to a minimum internal temperature of 145 F or above for 15 seconds. If not for immediate service, raw eggs and foods containing raw eggs must be heated to a minimum internal temperature of 155 F for 15 seconds. This second condition applies to all those egg based foods noted above.
If you plan on ordering any of these foods or sauces or see them on the menu, my advice is to either stay away from them or confirm with certainty with your server, manager or the cook that they are using some type of pasteurized egg product in place of raw eggs. Pasteurization is a special heating process just enough to kill common and sufficient numbers of microorganisms without affecting the quality of the food. Pasteurized eggs can now be purchased in three possible ways: fresh whole shell eggs(look at the label or stamp on the egg itself), liquid eggs and frozen eggs.
There was a recent outbreak (August 2007) at a popular restaurant in Los Angeles where at least 40 people were confirmed to have contracted Salmonella which was linked to Hollandaise sauce made with undercooked, unpasteurized eggs, even though the law had already taken effect. A reporter for the Los Angeles Times reported his painful experience with this illness in the paper.
The lesson to take away is not to trust that the restaurant is complying with the law but to ask questions, observe and do your own investigating if need be, to assure you and your family are protected, especially if you can’t stay away from these higher risk foods.