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The answer to a recent question on the Law Stack Exchange ("Is it illegal to sell duck eggs in Austria?") establishes that fresh duck eggs are (or were) illegal to sell in Austria without a number of conspicuous safety warnings. (The rules in question were definitely in force from at least 1947 until at least 2006, but possibly also earlier and/or later.) The law requires sellers to do the following:

  1. Mark the eggs themselves, using indelible, foodsafe ink, with the warning, "Duck egg! Boil!"

  2. Mark the container in which the eggs are sold with the warning, "Duck eggs! Boil for at least 8 minutes or bake in an oven!"

  3. Display a large sign in the premises near where the duck eggs are sold, with the warning, "To prevent damage to health, duck eggs must not be eaten raw or soft-boiled, nor used to make puddings, mayonnaise, egg dishes, fried eggs, pancakes, omelettes, etc. Before consumption they must be boiled for at least 8 minutes, or baked completely through in an oven."

I have bought duck eggs in other countries and never encountered such warnings. Is it true that duck eggs require food safety precautions over and above those for chicken eggs? If so, what's the reason that duck eggs are so unsafe? If not, is there some specific, documented reason why the Austrian authorities may have been (mis)led to believe that duck eggs posed a health hazard? (For example, were there possibly flawed scientific studies in the past pointing to duck eggs being dangerous? Or was there some well-publicized scandal concerning unsanitary conditions at Austrian duck farms?)

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  • I can confirm that I have bought duck eggs in Germany without any special warnings or restrictions. So the law seems to be Austria specific and not EU-wide.
    – quarague
    Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 7:57
  • As for the last part of your question - that would highly speculative. You may however adjust and ask whether there were objective reasons that made duck eggs unsafe e.g. at the time the law was originally established.
    – Stephie
    Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 9:11
  • ... or simply a published justification in the Austrian food regulations. There sometimes is.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Sep 26, 2022 at 16:16

2 Answers 2

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There is probably an increased risk of salmonella from duck eggs. While there is no evidence that duck eggs are contaminated more frequently than chicken eggs, they are larger with a harder shell, requiring greater cooking time, which means that they are more likely to be eaten undercooked. And even without evidence, some sources do believe that they are contaminated more often.

An outbreak of salmonella poisoning in Ireland in 2009-2011, thought to be associated with eating undercooked duck eggs, let to the Irish health agency advising to only eat solid-cooked duck eggs. Other outbreaks have occurred over the years in Europe.

1947 is significant because during WWII, salmonella contamination of duck eggs was higher, or was believed to be higher, and many countries in Europe apparently had stringent regulations around duck eggs for decades after.

So, it's possible that either Austria is responding to recent outbreaks, or is just still carrying regulations that started in 1947.

Note that, despite any increased risks, the USDA does not specially regulate duck eggs, but considers their risk to be equivalent to chicken eggs. This could be because the number of duck eggs eaten in the US is so small as to be statistically insignificant, but is more likely because the USDA already recommends hard-cooking all eggs regardless of bird.

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  • * larger with a harder shell, requiring greater cooking time, which means that they are more likely to be eaten undercooked.* - only if cooked in the shell of course (I don't often get to eat duck eggs, last time was probably a frittata)
    – Chris H
    Commented Sep 27, 2022 at 14:12
  • Chris: apparently eating them as hard-boiled eggs is a common thing in Europe, though, given the health department warnings.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Sep 27, 2022 at 17:02
  • Yes, I'm not sure about cause and effect there. I'm in the UK (and not keen on hard boiled eggs)
    – Chris H
    Commented Sep 27, 2022 at 17:31
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No, they don't. They are just like any other egg - for safe consumption, you have to cook them through.

The pathogens transmitted through eggs are Salmonella bacteria. Currently, the official stance is that there is no more danger of it from duck eggs than from other eggs.

Austria does not (yet) have an official epidemiological institute, so the German-language information I was able to find was from Germany, specifically from the Robert Koch Institute (whose job is to take care of epidemics) and the Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung (whose job is to make sure citizens are well-informed about health issues). You can see both in the RKI and the BzgA page on salmonella that ducks (German: Ente) are not even mentioned. (The frequent matches of the substring in Enteritis are a linguistic coincidence).

is there some specific, documented reason why the Austrian authorities may have been (mis)led to believe that duck eggs posed a health hazard?

This is completely off-topic for our site, and you would have to find a political historian to answer it. It is not even sure that they were misled - maybe in Austria in 1947, there was indeed such a hazard. And if there wasn't, it is not in the domain of cooks to know the political trends that dominated a legislative body's decision 75 years ago.

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  • The Austrian law specifically states that duck eggs should not be treated like any other egg (usually chicken eggs). The RKI does not mention duck eggs anywhere. How do you conclude from that that duck eggs are the same as chicken eggs safetywise?
    – quarague
    Commented Sep 26, 2022 at 15:30
  • 2
    "This is completely off-topic for our site, and you would have to find a political historian to answer it." It's not off-topic at all, if there's a published reason for the food regulation, such as there is for the ban on raw milk cheeses under 2mo old in the USA.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Sep 26, 2022 at 16:15

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