Poisoned by tortillas cooked the traditional way, so with the egg still half raw and oozing from the pan. This is the fate of over 100 people after eating the typical Iberian dish at Casa Dani, a Madrid institution specializing in the famous egg and potato omelettes. There were 13 people who even needed hospitalization, while one of the symbolic places of the Spanish capital has decided to close its doors until the end of the health inspections. The tortilla, together with the calamari bocadillos (sandwiches) and the cod croquettes, represent one of the typical dishes to be enjoyed on the street or in the crowded clubs in the centre.
Casa Dani, which serves up to 700 a day, is one of those places where locals and tourists love to taste it the most. At the end of January, the restaurant apologized to its customers, but the affair sparked a real case, throwing the methods of preparing a pillar of Iberian cuisine into crisis. “We all like a liquid tortilla, but it’s a risk, and it’s especially risky if it’s going to be eaten by children, immune-compromised people, the elderly, or pregnant women,” María Del Toro, a researcher at the Center for biomedical research La Rioja in northern Spain.
The scientist then urged people to pay particular attention to egg dishes, both those eaten in restaurants and those prepared at home. Del Toro also pointed out other risky foods. “We have to be careful when cooking food and we have to be careful when cooking tortillas because they are made with eggs, but also when we cook poultry, such as turkey or chicken, because they can also be contaminated with Salmonella”. The question regarding eggs is such that even the rules relating to their cooking have been changed. The Hispanic government recently updated a 30-year-old food hygiene law that mandated that fresh eggs should be cooked to at least 75°C.
The rules that came into force last December establish that eggs must be cooked at a temperature of at least 70°C for two seconds or at a temperature of at least 63°C for 20 seconds. The latter is the recommended timing for fried eggs and tortillas. Instead of fresh eggs, the regional government of Madrid suggests using pasteurized eggs if you want a muddy omelette at all costs.
In the advice on its website, the institution reminds citizens to pay particular attention during the hot months, which are increasingly scorching due to climate change. “There are more tortilla poisonings during the summer and warmer months,” the site reads. “This happens because raw eggs are used, the center of the tortilla does not set, and the tortilla is kept at room temperature for more than two hours before being eaten. Such practices favor the growth of a bacterium called salmonella”, highlights the text.