Now that Thanksgiving has ended and we are slowly making our way through the turkey leftovers, it is officially Christmas season! It is the time for shopping, wrapping presents, and decorating the tree. For some, no Christmas season is complete without a cup of eggnog. Eggnog is a creamy drink that is made of milk and/or cream, sugar, whipped eggs and spirits such as brandy, rum or bourbon. However, since the recipe involves raw eggs there is a chance of another unwanted ingredient appearing in the holiday beverage – Salmonella.
Salmonella is a genus of bacteria that can make people very sick. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an infection from Salmonella can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps that can persist for 12 to 72 hours. The sickness usually lasts 4 to 7 days and most people can recover from Salmonella without treatment. However, in some infections the diarrhea may be so severe that hospitalization is a necessary for recovery. Furthermore, in these severe infections of Salmonella it can spread from the intestines to the bloodstream leading to other parts of the body which can cause death unless the person is quickly treated with antibiotics.
Salmonella can contaminate undercooked meat, poultry, and even eggs which brings us back to eggnog. Eggnog is made using raw eggs, but many people also add some alcohol to their egg milk punch to give it an extra kick. So does adding the alcohol actually kill any harmful bacteria in your homemade eggnog? NPR’s Science Friday has the answer! NPR’s Holiday Science Spotlight featured a short video where microbiologists Vince Fischetti and Raymond Schuch, from The Rockefeller University in New York, ran some experimental tests on a vat of spiked eggnog. The microbiologists tested Dr. Rebecca Lancefield’s eggnog recipe to see if any Salmonella bacteria cultures could grow.
Interestingly, the microbiologists found no culture growth from the vat of homemade eggnog with alcohol after it sat in the fridge for three weeks. The sterilization could have happened because the concentration of alcohol was so high that most bacteria could not grow in it. The CDC does not recommend the consumption of raw of eggs so next time you pour yourself a glass of eggnog you should probably add some brandy just to be on the safe side.
By Colleen Murphy