It once was thought that salmonella on the surface of eggs penetrated the shell and infected the egg contents. That's possible, so it's a good idea to wash your hands after touching eggs.
But it's now becoming clear that a hen infected with salmonella can carry the bacteria in its ovaries and oviducts. The eggs become infected with salmonella as they are forming, and carry the bacteria inside their shells.
Interestingly, the site of contamination is usually -- but not always -- the egg white.
Not every hen at the same farm carries salmonella, and not every egg laid by an infected hen carries the bug.
Hens get salmonella mainly from germs carried by flies and from eating the excrement of rodents that get into their feed. New FDA regulations -- which ironically went into effect on July 9, well after the current salmonella outbreak began -- are expected to cut the number of salmonella-carrying eggs by 60%.
Meanwhile, thorough cooking kills salmonella. Cooking an egg until both the egg white and egg yolk are solid will kill salmonella in the egg.
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