In Japan, people regularly eat raw eggs. Tamago kake gohan (rice mixed with a raw egg and soy sauce) is one very popular food. Sukiyaki (beef with vegetables cooked in an iron pot with soy sauce) is also dipped in a beaten raw egg just before eating. Government and health professionals are aware of the risk of salmonella poisoning, but unlike in the United States, it’s not easy to convince people to abandon this custom.
Most salmonella bacteria are attached on the outer surface of the shell. An egg is contaminated when it’s cracked and the shell comes into contact with the egg inside. In order to minimize this risk, the eggs in Japan are washed with sodium hypochlorite before being shipped.
Distribution time and expiration date are also compressed. In the U.S., expiration of eggs are 3 to 5 weeks, but in Japan, it’s up to 2 weeks. Eggs are also individually dated and sold in a sealed package in Japan, so that stores can’t tamper with the eggs by mixing old and new in a pack. Japanese eggs are much safer than American eggs.
However, when a chicken is contaminated with salmonella, her eggs are also contaminated inside, even if they are fresh. Therefore, Japanese eggs are not completely salmonella free. In one estimate, one out of 4,000 eggs is contaminated.
I am comfortable with eating raw eggs when I visit Japan, but definitely not in the United States. Seeing how neighborhood grocery stores in New York handled eggs with my own eyes, I don’t feel eating them raw.