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How to ensure that Christmas cookies don't cause stomach ache - Tips on how to avoid Salmonella infections

22/2007, 17.12.2007

Every year more than 50,000 cases of Salmonella infections are reported in Germany although the actual figure is probably far higher. The infections are always caused by a lack of hygiene, in domestic kitchens, too. The approach of the Christmas festivities prompted the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) to draw attention to a few simple hygiene rules to ensure that Christmas cookies don’t cause stomach ache. Salmonella infections - also called salmonellosis - mainly lead to unpleasant diarrhoea although symptoms like vomiting and headache frequently occur, too. As children under the age of five are particularly sensitive, salmonellosis may take a more severe course in their case and in the case of older and sick people, sometimes even proving fatal in individual cases. It is, therefore, very important to take precautionary steps by practising good kitchen hygiene when baking cookies.

Besides raw poultry meat, raw eggs are one of the main sources of Salmonella. The bacteria can be found both on the shell and inside, particularly in the egg yolk. When making biscuits Salmonella can migrate from the eggs to the dough and multiply there. They multiply at temperatures between +7°C and +45 °C, the higher the temperature, the faster they multiply. From 70 °C upwards, i.e. during backing, they die off. Children are particularly at risk of contracting a Salmonella infection when they nibble the uncooked dough.

When making cookies, consumers should observe the following rules:

  • Use fresh eggs
  • Bake the dough, if possible, immediately after preparing it.
  • Do not leave the dough to stand for more than 30 minutes at room temperature, particularly as the kitchen is already very warm from the heat from the oven.
  • Store larger amounts of dough in the fridge until use and only remove the amount required.
  • Don’t eat the dough. This applies in particular to children.

When working with eggs, the following always applies:

  • Store eggs at a maximum temperature of 7°C in the fridge to prevent Salmonella present in or on the raw eggs from multiplying.
  • Eggs with very dirty or punctured shells should not be used at all.
  • No raw eggs should be used in dishes eaten uncooked like desserts, baked goods with a cream filling or topping and mayonnaise.
  • Sensitive individuals (infants, the sick and the elderly) should only consume eggs that have been thoroughly cooked and heated through. This is the case when both the egg yolk and white are hard.
  • Dishes containing eggs should be consumed immediately or stored in the fridge at a maximum temperature of 7°C.
  • Egg shells or raw eggs should not be allowed to come into contact with other foods.
  • When cracking eggs open, any squirted drops of egg yolk or white should be wiped away immediately using kitchen paper. The work surfaces used should be thoroughly cleaned, too.
  • Any kitchen devices that come into contact with raw eggs should be immediately washed with hot water and washing-up liquid or cleaned in the dishwasher.
  • After working with raw eggs, hands should be thoroughly washed with hot water and soap and carefully dried.