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Milk and Dairy Products

Unpasteurized milk and dairy products may contain harmful pathogens and are not safe to eat, drink, or use in making foods. Today, milk and other dairy products sold in interstate commerce are pasteurized (heat-processed to kill pathogenic bacteria).

Raw Eggs

Bacteria need moisture in order to survive and reproduce. Thus, they thrive in foods with high-moisture content, such as eggs or starchy, egg-rich foods.

Today, scientists know that Salmonella Enteritidis, a harmful bacterium, can be transmitted from infected laying hens directly to the interior of the eggs before the shells are formed. Even eggs with clean, uncracked shells can be infected.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now estimate that 1 egg in 20,000 may be contaminated. Although the number of eggs affected is quite small, there have been cases of foodborne illness related to infected eggs.



Milk and Dairy Products

  • Don’t drink any beverages or eat any foods that contain unpasteurized milk. Read the labels to make sure the drink or food has been pasteurized.
  • Pasteurization kills pathogenic bacteria found in milk, but it may not kill all the spoilage bacteria. To prevent the growth of bacteria, keep milk and milk products refrigerated.
  • Milk that’s processed using the Ultra High Temperature method (shelf-stable milk) can be stored at room temperature for the time period indicated on the label. After opening, the product must be refrigerated.

Raw Eggs

  • Wash hands, utensils, food preparation areas, and equipment with hot, soapy water before and after they come in contact with raw eggs and egg-containing foods.
  • To kill any bacteria that may be present, cook eggs thoroughly until the yolks and whites are firm. Cook fried eggs for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, 4 minutes in a covered pan. Cook scrambled eggs until they’re firm throughout. Boil eggs for 7 minutes.
  • When preparing cakes, pies, or homemade cookies, don’t taste the batter, filling, or raw cookie dough if it contains raw, unpasteurized eggs.
  • People in the at-risk groups should avoid eating foods that may contain raw or lightly-cooked eggs, such as:
    • Caesar salad
    • Cookie dough
    • Eggnog and other egg-fortified beverages that are not thoroughly cooked
    • Homemade dressings -
      - Béarnaise
      - Hollandaise
      - Mayonnaise
    • Homemade ice cream
    • Mousse
    • Meringue

Note: You can use commercially-prepared forms of the foods listed above. They're often already cooked or pasteurized. You can also safely use eggs that are pasteurized in the shell in recipes that call for raw eggs. Pasteurized eggs may be found in the refrigerator section of your local supermarket and are labeled “pasteurized.”



Cheese made from pasteurized milk can become contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, a harmful bacterium. Pregnant women and their fetuses, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems are advised not to eat soft cheeses, such as feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined, and Mexican-style cheeses. (It’s okay for all consumers to eat hard cheeses, processed cheeses, cream cheese, and cottage cheese.)


  • All consumers should not eat cheeses made from unpasteurized milk.

Mold growth can affect the quality of food, and some molds can cause illness. To prevent excess moisture buildup and mold growth:


  • Keep cheese and cheese dishes covered with plastic wrap.
  • Refrigerate cheese - don’t leave it sitting out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.


  • Milk has been pasteurized since the 1800s - when Louis Pasteur, a scientist, discovered that mild heating killed pathogenic bacteria.
  • Many people relate food spoilage (sour milk, for example) to foodborne bacteria. Illness-causing (pathogenic) bacteria are not the same as food-spoilage bacteria. In fact, foods that look and smell fresh may contain pathogens. To keep food safe, always follow the 4 Cs of Food Safety.
  • There are about 274 million people in the United States. On the average, each person consumes more than 233 pounds of milk and cream each year.
  • About 240 million laying hens produce approximately 66 billion eggs per year in the United States.

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