Answer Man

Washing eggs before using not a good idea

Q: My husband insists on washing eggs before he puts them in the refrigerator. He says he was told that it protects against potential food poisoning when we eventually use them. Is this common practice?

K.C.., of Belleville

A: Both farmers and food experts agree that your husband is playing a shell game that could increase your risk of winding up with a contaminated omelet.

During the final part of her laying process, a hen covers the egg with a micromembrane coating called the “bloom” or “cuticle.” This helps keep potential baby chicks safe and clean by making it difficult for bacteria to invade the egg.

“Washing dirty eggs removes the bloom and invites bacteria to be drawn inside the egg,” says Jill Winger, who blogs about her life on a Wyoming ranch on “And washing eggs in cool water actually creates a vacuum, pulling unwanted bacteria inside even faster.”

Lisa Steele at agrees.

“If you wash your eggs as soon as you collect them, you are removing that natural barrier.”

This assumes you are buying eggs straight from the farmer. But the U.S. Department of Agriculture offers the same advice for store-bought eggs.

“Do not wash eggs before storing them,” it says. “Washing is a routine part of commercial egg processing and the eggs do not need to be washed again. Federal regulations outline procedures and cleansers that may be used.

“‘Bloom,’ the natural coating on just-laid eggs that helps prevent bacteria from permeating the shell, is removed by the washing process and is replaced by a light coating of edible mineral oil, which restores protection. Extra handling of the eggs, such as washing, could increase the risk of cross-contamination, especially if the shell becomes cracked.”

It appears that washing such eggs even just before using them may be just a waste of water. (My family never washed eggs and I don’t believe we ever became ill because of it even when my mom would whip me up a little eggnog with raw eggs ala Rocky.) And if you do wash them days ahead of time, you are now forewarned that Mother Nature could wind up playing a bad yolk on you.

Q: For several years, I have been contending with a problem that they don’t even talk about on all of those TV medical ads: fecal incontinence. Last week, I caught the tail end of a story io about a new treatment. As you might imagine, this is a very unpleasant condition, so if there’s any help, I’d be interested in investigating.

S.W., of Fairview Heights

A: For a problem that’s so prevalent, fecal incontinence seems to be an issue that is still seldom discussed compared to once rarely talked-about issues like urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction.

Recent studies have found that at least 8 percent of the population has the problem to some degree whether it be an occasional leakage of stool while passing gas or a complete loss of bowel control. It may affect 20 percent of women over 45. Experts, however, fear the numbers may be much higher because, as you indicate, many are reluctant to talk about the condition out of embarrassment.

And the figures are only going to grow because the problem is often caused by muscle or nerve damage due to giving birth and aging. Yet relief is often limited, ranging from drugs, dietary changes and exercises to major surgery to repair a rectal prolapse or sphincter damage caused by childbirth.

That’s why doctors at the Mayo Clinic campus in Jacksonville, Fla., were understandably excited last week to report success after being the first in the world to implant a new device that mimics the anal sphincter, the muscle that serves as the gatekeeper for the passage of feces from the body.

“(Fecal incontinence) can be debilitating due to social isolation, depression, loss of self-esteem and self-confidence,” Dr. Paul Pettit, a Mayo female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery specialist, said in a press release. “If a patient does not improve through use of less invasive techniques, our only option has been a colostomy.”

The Fenix Continence Restoration System is an anal sphincter sizing tool made up of titanium beads with magnetic cores connected by a titanium wire to form a ring. Once implanted, the magnetic beads minimize the involuntary opening of the anal sphincter, producing greater control over the bowel.

“The Fenix System affords a viable surgical option to address this condition when other methods have failed to improve a patient’s quality of life,” Dr. William Maisel, acting director of the Office of Device Evaluation in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said of the relatively non-invasive procedure.

The Food and Drug Administration gave it a humanitarian device exemption last year, so each of the four Mayo patients who have been implanted with the system so far required specific approval from the hospital’s institutional review board.

Q: I still watch “The Waltons” on cable, and I’ve always wondered why the parents in the movie pilot “The Homecoming: A Christmas Story” (Andrew Duggan and Patricia Neal) were replaced by Ralph Waite and Michael Learned in the series

C.W., of Edwardsville

A: That’s easily explained: While now regarded as the series pilot, that first movie on Dec. 19, 1971, really wasn’t. It was supposed to be simply one of those heartwarming holiday specials — until CBS saw the ratings go through the roof. Knowing it had something special, the network then set to work on turning it into a series, but by the time plans were finalized, Duggan and Neal had either moved on to other projects or weren’t interested in the grind of a weekly series. You might remember the lovable Will Geer replaced Candice Bergen’s father, Edgar, as Grandpa Zeb, too.

Today’s trivia

When developed in 1934, what did the inventors of Hawaiian Punch envision their product being used for?

Answer to Wednesday’s trivia: It seems udderly unthinkable now, but when “The Wizard of Oz” was turned into a stage play in 1902, Dorothy was blown to Oz not with her cute terrier, Toto, but with a cow named Imogene. The play proved so successful that Imogene also shared the spotlight in the 1910 silent movie. For some reason I have a hard time imagining Margaret Hamilton saying, “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your big, fat cow, too!”

Roger Schlueter: 618-239-2465, @RogerAnswer