Salmonella is an illness caused by a bacterium called Salmonella enteritidis, which can be found inside eggs. When a raw or undercooked egg containing the bacteria is ingested, it can cause serious illness that can lead to death in individuals with a compromised immune system. Symptoms of a salmonella infection include abdominal cramps, fever, and diarrhea. These symptoms typically appear in the first 12 to 72 hours after consuming a contaminated egg and generally last anywhere from four to seven days, with most people recovering without the need for antibiotic treatment. If severe diarrhea is present, however, the person may require hospitalization due to dehydration.
Salmonella contaminates an egg when the egg is passed through the hen’s ovaries. The hen usually appears healthy, giving the farmer no reason to believe it is carrying salmonella. Although eggs are carefully cleaned and inspected, it is still possible for an egg contaminated with salmonella to be sold in the grocery store.
Any food that contains eggs presents a risk of salmonella infection. This is particularly true if the eggs are undercooked or if the yolk is left runny. Therefore, there is a chance of getting salmonella from eating poached eggs.
Fortunately, there are many steps that can be taken to prevent contracting salmonella from a poached egg. The first preventative measure is to keep the egg refrigerated until it is time to poach it. If the egg is cracked or dirty in any way, throw it away and select a different egg. In addition, select only pasteurized eggs to reduce the chance of the egg being infected with salmonella in the first place.
After poaching the egg, be sure to eat it right away. Waiting to eat the egg or keeping it warm for longer than two hours before eating it increases your chances of becoming infected with salmonella. If you do not finish the egg and wish to save it for later, be sure to refrigerate it. You must also wash your hands and any cooking utensils that may have made contact with the egg while it was still raw with soap and water in order to kill off any salmonella bacteria that may be present.