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Posted in Food Safety on December 31, 2021
In the U.S, eggs are refrigerated, but in other parts of the world, you will likely find them stacked on a shelf in one of the store’s aisles. So do eggs really need to be refrigerated? It depends on where you are located, but in the U.S., eggs need to be refrigerated to minimize the risk of food poisoning.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires commercially sold eggs to undergo a sterilization process before being sold. They are power-washed and sprayed with a disinfectant, which removes all organic matter, including harmful bacteria, but also strips the egg’s shell of its protective coating. As a result, they are more porous and open to contamination. Salmonella is the primary concern and is less likely to develop under refrigerated conditions. Commercially sold eggs must be stored and transported below 45°F. However, if bacteria is already present inside the egg, this process will not help, which is how people often still get sick. Additionally, since store-bought eggs have already been refrigerated, they should be kept in your fridge. If not, condensation will form on the shell, which can make it easier for bacteria to enter the egg.
Many countries in Europe have not implemented regulations for washing and refrigerating eggs. Conversely, they let the eggs keep their protective layers intact, making them much less likely to be infected by salmonella. Because of their natural defenses, it is unnecessary to refrigerate the eggs. This method is especially practical in places where refrigeration is not possible, or the cost of refrigerating eggs is too high.
Additionally, many countries take preventative measures to combat Salmonella by improving sanitation methods and vaccinating egg-laying hens against common strains of the bacterium. Washing and disinfecting eggs are actually illegal in the European Union, with the exception of Sweden and the Netherlands.
Refrigerating eggs can control the growth of bacteria and also doubles an egg’s shelf life. If stored properly in the refrigerator, eggs rarely go bad and can be kept for three to five weeks or frozen for about one year if cracked into a freezer-safe container. The quality of room temperature stored eggs will begin to decline within a few days and must be consumed within one to three weeks. Refrigerated eggs will last twice as long. After about 21 days, an egg’s natural protection will lose its effectiveness.
If eggs are kept in the refrigerator door, bacteria may begin to grow due to the fluctuation in temperature each time the door is opened. Eggs can also absorb the odors from other foods in the fridge, which can change their flavor and quality. Refrigerated eggs are also said to be worse for baking, and they should reach room temperature before being used. However, they should not be left out of the refrigerator longer than two hours before cooking.