Is it harmful to eat eggshells?


My toddler likes to eat eggshells. Not just a little smidgen that falls into the mixing bowl when she “helps” Mama crack the eggs, but the whole shell.

This morning marks the third time I’ve found her sitting quietly in the kitchen, munching eggshells she retrieved from the compost bin.


Assuming I’m using pasteurized eggs (which I’m not, but I’ll switch), is there any harm to eating eggshells?

She still drinks lots of infant formula and eats a lot of cheese, and she’s growing well, so I’m not concerned about calcium deficiency. I don’t think it can rightly be called pica, because she’s simply not learned that the shell part isn’t food. And, apparently, egg shells are yummy.

Egg shells are about 95% calcium carbonate (i.e. chalk), stuck together with a bit of protein. That won’t do you any harm… many antacid tablets are basically big lumps o’ chalk.

That said, I’d be a little concerned about the bird crap that is often stuck to the shells, as well as possible injury from sharp jagged edges when swallowed.

Maybe she’s just enjoying the crunchiness of the eggshells?

The Salmonella scare emerged in 1985 when Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers first found the bacteria Salmonella enteritidis not just on the outer shells of eggs, but also inside them.

The major advantage of using washing systems for table (Grade A) eggs is the reduction of microbial load on the surface of “clean” eggs (sanitized eggs). Data regarding current egg washing practices indicates a bacterial reduction of 1 to 6 log10 units.

The heat of cooking takes care of a lot of the bacteria on the shell. If the shell is cracked before cooking, as in fried eggs, there is a chance of contamination. Eggs “sunny side up” are frowned on by some restaurants because of the uncooked white that remains. “Over easy” is the closest they will come.

It’s not likely to be a sign of dietary deficiency - apparently, most of those ‘crave what you need’ things are just myths. Immediate concern would be hygiene - from the bacteria on and possibly in the egg, and the whole compost bin aspect (implying a place where bacterial growth might have really got moving)

If we were talking about shells removed from boiled eggs, then the hygiene issue is moot, but there are possible choking hazard issues, plus the question of whether eggshells are going to be a ‘gateway’ substance to other things that might be harmful (pain flakes, for example).

I don’t think sterilised egg shells are particularly dangerous in and of themselves - probably quite beneficial, if you can swallow them without choking.

Paint flakes. :smack:

‘Pain flakes’ are, of course, the leading brand of sado-masochist breakfast cereal. Now with added glass shards.

Those are the things I was worried about. Any microbiologists in the house? Will a pasteurized egg be clean on the outside, as well as the inside?

I think that’s it. She smashes the up into pretty small bits - about the size of the letters on this message board (at whatever the default font size in Firefox is.) Most of them are still stuck to the membrane and holding together, but in shards, when she swallows them, I think (at least, the piece I took out of her mouth was like that, but maybe she wasn’t done chewing.)

Will they dissolve in her stomach like Tums, or are we risking intestinal damage?

These shells were not cooked. We scramble or fry most often.

Well, by “compost bin” I mean an in-kitchen collection bin for compost, not the composter that breaks down the scraps into actual compost. The scraps don’t contain meat or animal scraps, and aren’t more than about 48 hours old before I take them outside - veg peels, bits of uneaten salad, crusts of bread, that sort of thing. The eggshells themselves are probably the dirtiest thing in there. They are also the only thing she picks out of there. I don’t want to put a lock on it, because then the rest of the family won’t use it consistently.

But if pasteurized egg shells are safe for her, I’ll just give them to her, not put them in the compost. (I don’t want her learning that the compost bucket is a snack bar!)

Makes its own gravy… out of you.

Could you video tape her doing this and play the tape back when she’s 13 years old? Might help with teenage snottiness.


Ooh! Good idea! I can file it with this picture of her snogging her “boyfriend”. Cradle robber - he’s only 5 months old! :smiley:

Thanks for clearing that up. The only pain flakes I know of are snowflakes, which are a pain in the ass! I’ll sleep well tonight.

I guessed you meant something like that, but if you’re anything like me, that container doesn’t get washed out very often if at all (actually, I use a plastic mushroom punnet, throwing it away when it becomes battered or encrusted, but it’s never clean enough that I’d want to eat my dinner off it).

Seriously, I think you’re better off trying to discourage the consumption of egg shells altogether; apart from being weird (not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with weird) it’s actually not likely to be good for her teeth (abrasive) and might easily pave the way for the development of tastes that are even worse, such as eating sand or plaster.

Good point. The little bits of chalk in toothpaste are ground much finer, and some dentists think even they’re too abrasive. Hadn’t thought of the teeth angle.

OK, no more “gateway munchies” for the tot!

There are any number of crunchy/crispy foods available as a replacement; some of them are even quite nutritious.