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Making Eggs 'Safer'

They look like any other eggs and cook like any other eggs. But the new eggs are different. They've been pasteurized in the shell to kill any harmful salmonella bacteria that might be lurking inside, bacteria that can make you sick.

"Eggs are one of the largest contributors to food-borne illness outbreaks of any food that we've studied," says Caroline Smith DeWaal of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Before eggs go to market, they're cleaned to get rid of any dirt or bacteria on the outside. But that doesn't solve the problem, because the salmonella bacteria can already be inside the shell when the hen lays the egg.

These new Davidson's Pasteurized Eggs take care of that problem. They're showing up in a number of East Coast supermarkets such as Harris Teeter stores.

"We want to give customers alternatives, especially when it comes to food safety. And these pasteurized eggs give them an alternative in their eggs so that they feel more confident that the eggs they're eating are safe," says Sonya Elam of Harris Teeter Stores.

John Davidson has worked for 10 years to bring in-shell pasteurization to market. He had to find a way to heat the eggs long enough to destroy the bacteria without cooking them.

He says, "Anybody can pasteurize an egg if they like a hard-boiled egg. The trick, of course, or the art form that we have developed, is a way to pasteurize the egg and have it essentially the same as another raw egg that everybody is used to."

Davidson's process is relatively simple but it requires putting the eggs in a precisely-timed bath of hot water, and that water must be at exactly the right temperature.

After the hot bath, the eggs are quickly chilled in cold water to stop the cooking process. Then they're inspected for cracks, treated with a sealant to prevent re-contamination, and packaged.

So, how do these safer eggs taste? According to the Good Housekeeping Institute, they are just like any other raw egg.

"We did a taste panel here with some food people and some ringers from the staff, and none of us could tell the difference," explained Susan Westmoreland of the Good Housekeeping Institute.

The folks at the Good Housekeeping Institute tell us the Davidson's eggs have a good, fresh taste. About the only noticeable difference, they say, is that the egg whites are a little thicker. So when you whip the whites (say, to make a meringue), it will take you a little bit longer.

These new eggs are expected to cost about 40 cents a dozen more than usual. The company thinks it's a price many folks will be willing to pay for the added safety, and ability to eat foods with raw or undercooked eggs in them. Davidson's hopes to have its eggs available nationwide by next spring.

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