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What's better than the sound of a fresh egg frying on the griddle in the morning? And for many true egg lovers, there's nothing more satisfying than breaking the delightfully runny yolk and watching that yellow goodness ooze down the side of your toast.
But before you take the first bite, consider that your undercooked egg may be hiding something pretty unappetizing.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) actually advises everyone against eating undercooked eggs, or foods containing raw eggs (that means recipes like homemade caesar dressing, aioli, some ice creams or protein-packed power shakes) due to the risk of salmonella.
And with the latest historic egg recall which has, so far, been linked to 35 illnesses across nine states, it's more important than ever to not only pay attention to what kind of eggs you're buying but how you serve them.
What is Salmonella anyway?
Salmonella enteritidis is a bacteria and it's one of the most common causes of food poisoning in the U.S. While eggs and poultry are often affected, it can also contaminate unpasteurized milk or juice, cheese, alfalfa sprouts, melons, spices and nuts.
In eggs, both the yolk and whites can be infected through the porous shell. A person who contracts salmonella will suffer unpleasant flu-like symptoms. And while these usually subside within four to seven days without treatment, they can become much more severe in those with weaker immune systems, such as pregnant women, the elderly and children under 5.
Despite USDA recommendations, many people can't get enough of their runny-yolked eggs — whether they're sunny side up, super-soft boiled or slightly scrambled.
A runny egg yolk can add decadence to a rustic pizza, such as this one with mixed mushrooms, asparagus, black pepper and bacon:
Or provide a protein-packed addition to avocado toast:
And a flavor burst to burgers:
But is it worth the risk?
"The USDA recommendation for children under 5 is valid and evidence based," NBC news, health and nutrition editor, Madelyn Fernstorm, PhD told TODAY Food. "While a runny yolk is a delicious treat for many people, children under 5 should eat their eggs fully cooked. There’s no justification to risk your child’s health for a runny egg, because it’s tasty."
Realistically, says Fernstorm, most healthy adults do not need to put aside all of their epicurean dreams doused in runny yolks or run the risk of food poisoning. However, while some parents may aspire to have their children develop an adventurous palate at an early age, dishes with sunny side-up or soft-boiled eggs just aren't the way to do it. Maybe try these veggie-packed meatballs instead?
What about all of those eggs-cellent nutrients?
Eggs are excellent sources of nutrition and have been recommended as a dense, brain-boosting food for both pregnant women and babies for many years.
Research shows one large boiled egg contains vitamins A, B5, B12, D, E, K and B6, folate, phosphorus, selenium, calcium and zinc. It has 77 calories, 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat.
Lucky for little ones (and those who prefer eggs with firm yolks), Fernstorm affirmed that unlike some fruits and vegetables which lose a little nutritional value when cooked, the nutrients in eggs — raw or runny — remains the same.
"Eggs are one of nature’s perfect, nutrient-rich, easily digestible foods. But how you choose to prepare a whole egg will surely impact its food safety profile — which can be different from its nutrient profile," Fernstorm told TODAY Food.
Why you should still enjoy eggs.
If you still wan't to enjoy eggs, don't panic. There are certainly ways to abide by USDA standards and expand the whole family's tastebuds with plenty of exciting dishes. Just ask Bobby Flay, who has plenty of flavorful and nutritious egg-centric meals. Scrambled eggs with fresh goat cheese, crème fraiche and piquillo pesto toast, anyone?
And if you prefer your eggs hard-boiled, Drew Barrymore also has some great boiling advice when it comes to playing it safe — and it doesn't involve cooking over a flame!