Whether or not you’re a fan of eggnog, odds are someone in your family is bringing it to your New Year’s gathering. If not made properly, the recipe could include Salmonella.
This is especially dangerous if you are serving people at high risk for foodborne infections: young children and pregnant women, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems.
Each year this creamy drink causes many cases of Salmonella. The ingredient responsible? It is usually raw or undercooked eggs that cause the problems.
Eggs are a standard ingredient in most homemade eggnog recipes, giving the beverage its characteristic frothy texture.
Eggnog recipes vary greatly, and the use as coffee creamer or part of a cocktail doesn’t mean that bacteria aren’t finding their way into your drinks.
Here are some answers to common eggnog questions and how to keep your eggnog free of harmful pathogens.
Myth #1 — Alcohol kills bacteria in eggnog
Some people think that adding rum, whiskey or other alcohol to the recipe will make the eggnog safe. But, the alcohol in the drink does not kill bacteria.
Myth #2 — Adding eggnog to hot coffee kills bacteria
At its very hottest, coffee is served at 160 to 185 degrees F. But the adding of cold cream quickly drops the temperature of your beverage. To be sure that any Salmonella is killed in eggnog, the mixture must be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F.
Myth #3 — All store-bought eggnog have raw eggs
The eggs in store-bought eggnogs have been pasteurized. This is a process of cooking the eggs by heating the drink to high temperatures for a short time in order to kill any bacteria or microorganisms that may be present.
How to make safe eggnog:
The FDA advises consumers to start with a cooked egg base for eggnog.
To make a cooked egg base:
- Combine eggs and half the 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.
- After cooking, chill the mixture before adding the rest of the milk and other ingredients such as cinnamon.
Other options for safe eggnog
You can also use egg substitute products or pasteurized eggs in your eggnog, 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 also be used in place of raw eggs. Commercial pasteurization of eggs is a heat process at low temperatures that destroys 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 than unpasteurized eggs. Even if you’re using pasteurized eggs for your eggnog, 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 delicious, creamy homemade eggnog without worrying about making anyone sick for the beginning of the New Year.
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