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Dried egg pasta revisited

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A while back, I was asked why it is okay to dry your own egg pasta, what with all the salmonella lurking on eggs and the like. I responded in the topic Dried Egg Pasta: Hidden Danger or Perfectly Safe?

In the comments, amyjean2222 wrote: I had the same question myself, and a few google book results showed evidence that salmonella in fact can survive a year in dried pasta, though any bacteria will be killed during the cooking process. Commercial pasta manufacturers eliminate the risk by using pasteurized eggs or by using heat during the drying process.

I replied in the comments, but I thought it was important enough to bring to the people following along.

Hi, Amyjean2222,

It’s interesting to hear that salmonella can survive so long. I suppose having all the nooks to hang out in and the relatively warm temperature of the pasta helps out.

Still, that doesn’t make the dried egg pasta particularly dangerous. Having a little of a bacteria isn’t a big deal, especially as you mentioned that they’d be killed when they’re cooked. The problem would come in if they had a chance to multiply.

The older view of bacteria is that they work as individuals, growing and causing whatever problems they might cause on their own. If they get into large groups, the effect, it was thought, would become noticeable.

Recent research indicates that some, if not all, bacteria communicate with each other, waiting until they reach certain group size before activating and doing whatever damage they’re going to do. I don’t know if salmonella works this way particularly, but I do know that a little salmonella that goes dormant and gets killed isn’t going to be a big problem.

A big problem would be if you were to keep the pasta warm and moist for a while, then let it dry. So if you left it on the counter covered in plastic wrap for several hours before letting it dry. In that case, if the bacteria were allowed to multiply before going dormant, even cooking the bacteria might not be enough to prevent the problems that they could have left behind. 

However, if you have access to pasteurized eggs, that’s a great way to go, especially if you will be feeding the pasta to someone very young, very old, or with otherwise compromised immune system.

The larger concern is about cross-contamination. You know to wash your hands after handling raw chicken, but you might not think to do so after handling dried pasta. So if you make your own egg pasta and don’t use pasteurized eggs, it would be a good idea to treat it as you would raw chicken: clean any surfaces the raw product touches, especially counters, cutting boards, and hands.

 

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