Frosting can be a delicious, beautiful accessory to a moist and scrumptious cake. However, as with anything else you work with in the kitchen, you have to make sure that the frosting will be safe to eat. If your frosting recipe calls for raw egg whites, be aware that the raw eggs may contain salmonella.
Raw Egg Concerns
The main concern of eating raw eggs is that they contain the bacteria Salmonella enteritidis, which is harmful to humans if consumed. Although not all raw eggs are infected with Salmonella, this bacteria has been found almost solely in raw eggs, with more than 80 percent of occurrences happening through this food. Salmonella can also be found if the eggs have been undercooked, either slightly or completely, because some elements of raw, bacteria-containing egg still remained.
Side Effects of Salmonella
Salmonellosis, the disease caused by ingesting Salmonella bacteria, is characterized by extreme nausea, vomiting, cramps and pain in the abdominal region, headache, fever, and diarrhea. The symptoms generally show up anywhere between six and 48 hours after the raw eggs have been eaten.
The only way to safely prevent Salmonellosis is to kill the Salmonella bacteria found within the eggs. There is a common misconception that washing off the egg shell before using the eggs will wash off any disease that might exist, but this is simply false. Salmonella bacteria, if present, was implanted within the egg before it was laid, so the bacteria is actually inside the shell. Washing the shell might be a good idea to remove handling germs that are present, but it will not help remove Salmonella.
Heating and thoroughly cooking the egg is the only way to kill the bacteria inside. When an egg has been scrambled, hard-boiled, baked in a batter or otherwise completely heated by a hot temperature, the bacteria is killed and the egg becomes safe to consume.
Egg Whites in Frosting
Because frosting is not cooked, but simply mixed and spread on a cake, using raw egg whites can be harmful if those eggs contain Salmonella bacteria. The bacteria will be spread throughout the frosting and then iced over an entire cake, infecting anyone who takes a piece of cake.
The best way to prevent this is to use pasteurized egg whites that can be purchased ready-to-pour in a bottle, as opposed to using fresh egg whites that you crack open yourself. Pasteurized eggs or egg whites sold in the refrigerator section of the supermarket have already been completely heated, so any bacteria inside was killed. These are safe to use in raw mixtures, such as frosting.