Eating ice cream to beat the summer heat is one of America’s favorite pastimes. The rich, creamy flavor of homemade ice cream–whether it’s made with an old hand-cranked ice cream maker or a modern electric one–is especially tasty.
All would agree that a bout of food-borne illness is a most inappropriate way to celebrate summer. However, many families will put themselves at risk by cranking up their ice cream makers and using a recipe that calls for a raw egg base. This is a really good way to expose your family to the nasty Salmonella bacteria.
It is commonly believed that as long as eggs are clean and uncracked they are free of the bacteria associated with raw eggs, Salmonella enteritidis. Experts now know that an infected laying hen can transmit the bacteria to the inside of the egg as her body is forming it, before shell development. Refrigeration and freezing do not kill Salmonella, but cooking eggs to a temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. does.
A person infected with Salmonella usually has fever, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps beginning 12 to 72 hours after eating or drinking a contaminated food or beverage. The infection generally lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without any treatment. But for those at high risk–infants, older people, pregnant women, and people with a weakened immune system–it can be life-threatening.
So what can a person who loves homemade ice cream do? Don’t be intimidated. There are several safe ways to prepare your ice cream. First of all, update your recipes by using one of the following options:
- Find recipes that are eggless. An easy one calls for 2 cups milk, 1 cup sugar, 2 cups whipping cream or half-and-half and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Combine and stir until sugar is dissolved, then pour into a 1-gallon ice cream freezer and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.
- Use pasteurized eggs in recipes calling for raw eggs. They are available in the refrigerator section of your local market; the container will be labeled “pasteurized.” Pasteurized eggs may cost more, but the pasteurization process destroys the Salmonella bacteria.
- Use a recipe that contains a cooked custard base. The custard base must reach 160 degrees, measured with a food thermometer, to kill the bacteria. This is also the point at which the mixture will coat a metal spoon.
And, if you choose to use a recipe containing eggs:
- Choose Grade A or AA eggs with clean, uncracked shells.
- Use only eggs that have remained refrigerated.
- Use the eggs within recommended time limits—raw shell eggs within 3 to 5 weeks and leftover yolks and whites within 4 days. If the packaging states a “Use-By” date, adhere to it.
- Wash utensils, equipment and work areas with warm soapy water before and after contact with eggs.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and hot water during food handling and preparation.
You can still enjoy homemade ice cream made with eggs without the side effects of Salmonella by preparing it safely. Just make sure you use egg products, egg substitutes, or shell eggs that are pasteurized, or use a cooked egg base.