There’s a lot of varying opinions online as to when (if ever) it is safe to eat an undercooked egg. A quick online search will show you some opinions that say never, other studies that say after a certain age, and still others that will suggest early on. We’re here to break it all down for you and help you shape your opinion too!
The USDA advises that no one (young or old) should eat undercooked eggs. Runny eggs have a higher risk of food-borne illnesses, such as Salmonella. Salmonella can be very dangerous to anyone, but more specifically to young children, pregnant women, and older individuals.
The CDC suggests that if runny eggs are to be offered, it should not be before the age of 5 (since children under 5 have a higher risk of Salmonella illness), and the egg should be cooked using pasteurized eggs only.
What are pasteurized eggs?
Pasteurized eggs are eggs that are cooked just enough to reduce harmful bacteria but not enough to cook the egg. This means cooking the egg at 60 degrees Celsius (140 Fahrenheit) for around 3 minutes. You can also buy pasteurized eggs in some countries. They are identified using a stamped sign, such as “P”. Often, the outer label will also state that the eggs have been disinfected and pasteurized.
Are there benefits to eating runny eggs vs well-cooked eggs?
Studies do suggest that the most “nutritious” way to eat an egg is a fully-cooked egg white and a runny egg yolk. According to the SFgate, “the egg yolk supplies almost all of the whole egg’s iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin B-6, folate and vitamin B-12…. It also contains 100 percent of the egg’s vitamin A, which includes two antioxidants that help keep your eyes healthy. These antioxidants are susceptible to heat, so you preserve more of it if you eat them with the yolks lightly cooked. Furthermore, when eggs are boiled, you’ll lose about 23 percent of the lutein antioxidant.”
Source: (Busch, 2018). Health Benefits of Cooked Yolk vs Uncooked Yolk, SFGate, retrieved from: https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/health-benefits-cooked-yolk-vs-uncooked-yolks-12418.html
What about the raw egg-chugging trend? Is it healthy / safe?
No! According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, only 51 percent of the protein in raw egg is digested by our body as opposed to 91 percent when it is cooked. Also, regularly eating raw eggs can cause a biotin deficiency which leads to hair loss, depression, rashes and more.
Source: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 21, Issue 2, February 1968, Pages 173–182, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/21.2.173