I love soft cooked eggs!
When The Lantern Project recently decided to look at the issue of soft cooked eggs in aged care residential facilities, I wanted to be a part of the team. Soft eggs is a topic that exasperates staff, traumatises managers and frustrates residents. There are many layers of people between the hen and the resident who can support or thwart efforts, as this infographic shows.
What are the issues? How can we address them? How can we still offer eggs to residents just the way they want them?
- The common bacteria Salmonella can cause foodborne illness and is usually associated with eggs and egg products.
- Illness can be severe or even fatal for at risk groups. Aged care residents are considered an “at risk” group.
- Cracked eggs can cause Salmonella to enter and grow inside an egg.
- Eggs can crack during transportation and grow Salmonella after they leave the production facility.
- Cross-contamination can occur when handling and preparing eggs. Salmonella can spread from the egg to your hands and whatever your hands then touch.
- Cross-contamination can occur if eggs and raw egg product touch utensils, equipment and surfaces like benches.
Egg Safety in the Kitchen:
- Only buy and use eggs from first grade producers who have stringent food safety standards in place. They will wash, sanitise and check eggs for cracking and have stringent food safety practices in place.
- Store eggs in the refrigerator as soon as they are received. This slows down and limits the growth of Salmonella.
- Do not use dirty or cracked eggs unless they are thoroughly cooked, eg in cakes.
- Do not wash eggs as this can cause Salmonella to enter through the porous shell.
- When cracking eggs, minimise contact with the shell. Do not separate the white and yolk using the shell.
- 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.
- 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. Train staff to follow the procedures.
- Cook eggs in small batches close to the time of serving, bring directly to the dining room and serve immediately.
- Avoid hot holding cooked eggs. A safely cooked egg can become unpalatable when held for long durations.
- Cook eggs in the dining room servery on demand as residents require them.
- Cook to groups of less than 6 residents and give them their eggs just the way they want them.
- Don’t try to cook eggs for all dining rooms on the same day at the same time. Perfect small batches.
- Cook eggs at lower temperature for longer, eg sous vide eggs.
- Allow the residents to cook their own eggs or be assisted by staff. Poached and boiled egg cookers are readily available.
- Offer other egg dishes that are easier to cook and manage safely. Eg omelettes, egg muffins, frittata.
- If you are risk averse, buy pasteurised egg product which is safe to consume even lightly cooked.
- Most importantly: don’t murder the meal!
What are the constraints in your organisation that are stopping you cooking eggs the way your residents want them? People? Equipment? Culture? Even if your board and culture are risk averse, take a conservative approach. You can still deliver a tasty and satisfying egg solution to your residents. Ask me how.