April 2017

Eggs: Dignity and choice in aged care dining vs risk and compliance

This article on safe ways to enjoy eggs in aged care dining, is by Jo Cleary, a Member of The Lantern Project, which advocates for good food and nutrition in aged care services.  

When The Lantern Project decided to explore soft eggs in aged care, who would have thought about the complexities, variance and struggles residential facilities face? 

We found that one risk-averse person can affect the outcome for residents.  And there are many points between the hen and resident where risk aversiveness can creep in.

Egg diagram

State Health Departments publish food safety advice*. 

The main issues

  1. The common bacteria Salmonella can cause foodborne illness and is usually associated with eggs and egg products.  
  2. Illness can be severe or even fatal, especially for at-risk groups.  Aged care residents are considered an “at-risk” group.
  3. Cracked or dirty eggs can cause Salmonella to enter and grow inside an egg. Do not use.
  4. Cross-contamination can occur when handling and preparing eggs.  
  5. Cross-contamination can occur if eggs and raw egg product touch utensils, equipment and surfaces like benches. 

Egg Safety in the Kitchen

  1. Only buy and use eggs from first grade producers who have stringent food safety standards in place.
  2. When handling eggs, wash and dry your hands before and after touching an egg in its shell. Treat the raw egg as you would raw chicken meat and wash hands with hot soapy water immediately after touching.
  3. Clean and sanitise utensils, equipment and benches that have been touched by eggs in their shell or raw egg products, eg stick blenders and chopping boards. 

Satisfying your Residents

There is nothing to stop you serving soft cooked eggs to your residents.  Manage the risk through your Food Safety Program manual.  Use the manual as a way to document your innovative solutions.

Some solutions:

  1. Cook eggs close to the time of serving, and preferably at the dining room servery.
  2. Offer other egg dishes that are easier to manage than runny eggs.  Eg omelettes, egg muffins, frittata.
  3. If you are risk averse, buy pasteurised egg product which is safe to consume even lightly cooked. 
  4. Most importantly: don’t murder the meal!

Also see Jo Cleary’s article 50 Shades of Eggs. 

Jo Cleary is an Aged Care Consultant working with aged care providers to assist them to improve the dining experience for residents, including a focus on strategy, waste, constraints, cost management and low cost recommendations. Contact Jo.Cleary@DiningExperienceSpecialists.com.au

*For a comprehensive list of national and state government food safety authority links around Australia, please see summary at South Australia Primary Industries and Region website