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Breaking the Vicious Cycle

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Salmonella in Eggs - Weighing up the risks

Seth writes:
There are risks and then there are risks. Unfortunately, we live in a bug crazed era, where antibiotic soap is a top seller (and there's much evidence it causes more harm than good). So let's put the risks in perspective using good hard scientific data.

In 2001 (the most current collection data available at the CDC), only 11.3 cases were found per 100,000 people. That is a percentage risk of only 0.0113%. Is there some under-reporting? Of course - mild cases probably go undetected. The 0.0113% represents the total risk of an average American (in New Zealand the risk is a bit higher, for some reason)- including all sources of infection and all strains. So the infection from an egg, is even smaller, and I'll look at that in a bit. Moreover, 26% of the cases were from children under the age of 5. So if you're older than 5 years of age, then your risk of getting salmonellosis is only .00836%

Just for reference, the odds of getting hit by lightning are 1 in 280,000 or 0.00036% (according to NOAA). - 31 more times likely to get salmonellosis than to be struck by lightning.

Now, the above figure is all types of salmonellosis, the one from eggs is usually only S. Enteritis. S. Enteritis accounts for 17.7% of the isolates found. So this means that
your risk of getting salmonellosis from S. Enteritis is only .002% and it falls to .00148% if you are over the age of 5.

If you search through the reports in the CDC website, you'll find that a huge chunk of the above cases are from food producers - pooling their eggs and using improper refrigeration. So the risks to an individual who is not allowed to consume such processed foods (such as an SCDer) - would have an even lower risk.

I couldn't find any hard data related to organic egg farmers. However, the use of antibiotics on large scale chicken farms has actually increased the incidence of S. Enteritis on these farms - it kills of the natural microflora that usually compete with S. enteritis - leaving the area prime for salmonella. So common sense tells me that our risk of getting S enteritis from an organic farmed egg - is going to be factors below the average risk.

As a side note, the risk of getting a Salmonella poona infection, is .00011% - this is salmonella found on fruits - such as melons - and vegetables. So where do we stop? Must we pasteurize melons and fruits before we eat them?

Salmonella typhimurium is by far the most frequent bacteria causing salmonellosis (representing 22% of all cases). Epidemiolgy suggests that the greatest source of this infection is from handling wild birds, from other people who are already infected, and from consumption of fast food. Statistically speaking, SCDer's not eating fast food should really help reduce your risk with this type of infection.

So it seems to me, without even factoring in the use of raw eggs in your mayo, that just by being on the SCDiet, we have a far smaller risk getting salmonella than the average person. Why? because we are not allowed to eat massed processed foods, fast foods, foods from pooled eggs - which account for the largest percentage of salmonella infection. This is not even mentioning that the SCD creates an inhospitable environment for most
pathogens. Yogurt is also implicated in reduced salmonellosis. So factoring what we can't eat and what we do eat on the SCD - we have a far greater chance of avoiding salmonella than the average person in the US.

I for one will continue to make my mayo from raw egg.


Note from Elaine
Everything a person does is accompanied by risk but statistically, this information shows us how small the risk is. To reduce the risks further eggs should be gently washed in warm water with detergent since any bacteria would most likely be on the outside of the shell. And never use cracked eggs (not even for cooking).


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