I was watching a popular, health-themed talk show recently and the guest was demonstrating how to prepare a healthier version of chocolate mousse. His “secret ingredient” was avocado, which replaced the saturated fat that usually forms the basis of this rich dessert. It seemed like a great idea to me, since avocados not only supply the much-vaunted MUFA’s (Mono Unsaturated Fats), but also are loaded with fiber and other nutrients such as potassium and Vitamin A.
However, my concern was that this recipe, like most mousse recipes, included raw egg whites. I actually cringed a little as the guest chef spooned a generous serving of his creation into the host’s mouth. “Mmmmm! That’s good!” Didn’t anyone ever warn him about the danger of consuming raw eggs?
Serious health problem
Unless you live in a cave, you have probably heard about a bacterium called Salmonella. If ingested, this tiny organism can cause severe gastrointestinal sickness and even death. Unfortunately, raw eggs are one of the culprits in cases of Salmonella poisoning, to such a degree that the FDA has described “egg-associated illness caused by salmonella” as a “serious health problem.”
Only heat will do
And in case you were wondering, whipping egg whites has no affect on Salmonella, nor does chilling them. The only way to kill this bacterium is to heat it to 160 degrees F. That’s the reason your mom slapped your hand away when you went for the raw chocolate chip cookie dough!
These groups contend that the incidence of Salmonella poisoning from eggs is on the decline thanks to stricter government regulations. They believe that as long as you know the source of the eggs, you are at little risk for contracting Salmonella from them.
Although there may be some validity in this approach, I would err on the side of caution, particularly with children, the elderly and those in poor health. In other words, the weakest among us are at the greatest risk! All the regulation in the world cannot completely eliminate this problem, and there is no way to be absolutely sure that an egg is free of Salmonella even when eggs come from reputable sources.
There is some controversy about the issue of consuming raw eggs, since a number of alternative medicine proponents advocate eating them as part of a healthy diet. In addition, many haute cuisine chefs, don’t want you to miss out on the joys of recipes with raw eggs as an ingredient, like chocolate mousse, Caesar salad and homemade eggnog.