It’s the ultimate bummer: After hauling your groceries from your car (or your shoulders if you walked) onto your counter, you notice a couple of your eggs have cracked. Your dozen is down to 10.
So, should you just count your losses and toss them or are these broken eggs salvageable? Unfortunately, your gut instinct as right.
Simply put: “Toss them,” says Jen Bruning, M.S., R.D.N, L.D.N., registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. “If you can see any cracking, even just spider-web, that means that the already-porous shell of the egg has been compromised, and there’s a higher likelihood that bacteria could be lurking inside.”
And, yes, that bacteria can make you seriously sick.
Eggshells can become contaminated with Salmonella from poultry droppings (yup, poop) or from the area where they are laid, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Typically, it is Salmonella bacteria that cause foodborne illness from eggs,” says Bruning. If you contract the bacteria you can expect some or all of the following: nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea, headache, chills, and fever. Not worth the 20 cents that broken egg cost you.
Symptoms can appear six hours to four days after contracting the bacteria, says Bruning. And while otherwise-healthy people usually recover in a week or less, anyone with compromised immune systems, pregnant women, young children, and elderly adults may experience more serious complications, according to the CDC.
The bottom line: The only cracked egg that’s safe to use is the one you crack into the frying pan yourself, says Bruning. Plus, if you should ever find you cracked more eggs than you needed for a recipe, or if you have leftover whites or yolks, you can keep cracked, uncooked eggs in a clean, covered container the fridge for up to two days.