Many people are surprised to walk into a European supermarket and find that eggs are stored outside the fridge.
This is because the authorities in most European countries say that eggs do not need to be refrigerated. But in the United States, it is considered unsafe to store eggs at room temperature.
This leads some people to believe that Americans are too cautious when it comes to egg storage, while others believe that Europeans are too lax.
Who has the reason? Turns out, they’re both right.
It’s all due to Salmonella
Salmonella is a type of bacteria that lives in the intestines of many warm-blooded animals. It is perfectly safe when contained in the animal’s intestinal tract, but it can cause serious illness if it gets into the food supply.
A Salmonella infection can cause unpleasant symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea and be especially dangerous – even fatal – for the elderly, very young children, or those with compromised immune systems.
Common sources of Salmonella sprouts are alfalfa sprouts, peanut butter, chicken, and eggs. In the 1970s and 1980s, eggs were responsible for 77% of Salmonella outbreaks in the United States.
This prompted efforts to improve egg safety, and infection rates have since declined, although outbreaks of Salmonella caused by eggs still occur.
An egg can be contaminated with Salmonella externally, if the bacteria penetrate the eggshell, or internally, if the hen itself carried the Salmonella and the bacteria was transferred to the egg before the shell formed.
The way eggs are handled, stored and cooked is essential to prevent Salmonella outbreaks caused by contaminated eggs.
For example, storing eggs below 40ºF (4ºC) stops the growth of Salmonella, and cooking eggs to at least 160ºF (71ºC) kills any bacteria that are present.
While eggs are no different in the US and Europe, the way they are treated for Salmonella is different. So whether or not eggs should be kept in the fridge really depends on how you seek to control salmonella in your country.
Summary: Salmonella is a type of bacteria that is a common cause of foodborne illness. The way in which countries try to control salmonella in eggs determines whether or not they need to be refrigerated.
Eggs must be refrigerated in the US.
In the US, Salmonella is mainly treated externally. Before the eggs are sold, they go through a sterilization process. They are washed in hot, soapy water and sprayed with a disinfectant, killing any bacteria that might be on the shell.
Many other countries, including Australia, Japan, and the Scandinavian countries, treat eggs in the same way.
This method is very effective in killing the bacteria found in the eggshells. Unfortunately, it does nothing to kill the bacteria already present inside the egg, which is often what makes people sick.
The washing process can also remove the egg cuticle, which is a thin layer on top of the eggshell that helps protect the egg.
If the cuticle is removed, any bacteria that come into contact with the egg after sterilization will be able to more easily penetrate the shell and contaminate the egg contents.
Although refrigeration does not kill bacteria, it reduces the likelihood of disease by keeping the number of bacteria limited. Refrigeration also makes it more difficult for bacteria to penetrate the egg shell.
However, there is another important reason why eggs should be kept in the refrigerator in the US. To keep bacteria to a minimum, the FDA requires that eggs on the market be stored and shipped below 7ºC (45ºC). F).
And once eggs have been refrigerated, they should always be kept refrigerated to prevent them from forming condensation if they get hot. Moisture makes it easier for bacteria to penetrate the eggshell.
So whether you’re willing to risk getting a contaminated egg or not, the fact that eggs in the US are washed and refrigerated before purchase means they really do have to be kept from refrigerated afterwards.
Summary: In the United States and some other countries, eggs are washed, sanitized, and refrigerated promptly after being laid by hens to minimize bacteria. Therefore, eggs must remain refrigerated.
Learn more about “the properties of the egg” in our article: The properties of the egg .
Eggs do not have to be refrigerated in Europe
Many European countries do not refrigerate their eggs, even though they experienced the same epidemic of Salmonella cases in the 1980s.
While the United States has chosen to control Salmonella contamination through egg washing and refrigeration, many countries in Europe have chosen to improve sanitation and vaccinate chickens against Salmonella, preventing infection at its source.
The UK is a shining example of this. After a mandatory campaign to vaccinate all laying hens against the most common strain of Salmonella, the number of Salmonella cases in the country dropped to the lowest level in decades.
Contrary to the US, washing and disinfecting eggs is illegal in the EU (Sweden and the Netherlands are exceptions).
Although this may seem unsanitary to Americans, the logic is that the egg cuticle and shell are not damaged, functioning as a layer of defense against bacteria.
In addition to the cuticle, egg whites also have natural defenses against bacteria, which can help protect the egg for up to three weeks.
Therefore, it is considered unnecessary to refrigerate the eggs.
In fact, the EU recommends that eggs be kept cool but not refrigerated in supermarkets, in order to prevent eggs from heating up and forming unwanted condensation on the journey home.
Because eggs in the EU are treated differently than in the US, it’s okay to keep them out of the fridge, as long as you plan to use them soon.
Abstract: In most European countries, Salmonella is kept under control with preventive measures such as vaccination. It is usually illegal to wash eggs, so the egg cuticle remains intact and they do not have to be refrigerated.
Other Refrigeration Pros and Cons
Although it is not necessary to refrigerate the eggs, depending on the country you live in, you may want to do so.
This is because refrigeration can provide some benefits. However, it can also have drawbacks. Below are the pros and cons of refrigerating eggs.
Pro: Refrigeration can double the life of an egg
Storing eggs in the refrigerator is the best way to keep bacteria in check.
As an added bonus, it also keeps eggs fresher for much longer than storing them at room temperature.
While a fresh egg stored at room temperature will begin to decline in quality after a few days and should be used within 1-3 weeks, eggs stored in the refrigerator will maintain their quality and freshness for at least twice as long.
Con: Eggs can absorb flavors in the fridge
Eggs can absorb odors and flavors from other foods in your fridge, like freshly cut onions.
However, storing eggs in their carton and sealing strong-smelling foods in airtight containers can prevent this from being a problem.
Cons: Eggs should not be stored in the refrigerator door
Surprisingly, where eggs are stored in the refrigerator can also make a difference.
Many people keep their eggs in the refrigerator door. However, this can subject them to temperature fluctuations every time the fridge is opened, which could encourage bacterial growth and damage the egg’s protective membrane.
Therefore, keeping eggs on a shelf near the back of the refrigerator is best.
Cons: Cold eggs may not be the best for baking
Lastly, some chefs claim that room temperature eggs are best for baking. Because of this, some suggest letting refrigerated eggs come to room temperature before using them.
If this is important to you, it is considered safe for eggs to be left at room temperature for up to two hours. However, you must be sure to cook them to a safe temperature afterwards.
Summary: Refrigeration keeps eggs fresh twice as long as eggs are kept at room temperature. But they must be stored properly to avoid changes in flavor and temperature.
Do eggs need to be refrigerated?
It depends on where you live, as the way your country treats Salmonella determines whether eggs really need to be stored in the fridge or not.
In the United States, fresh eggs need to be refrigerated. However, in many countries in Europe and around the world, it is good to keep eggs at room temperature for a few weeks.
If you don’t know whether or not the eggs you buy should be kept in the fridge, check with your local food safety authority to see what is recommended.
If you’re still not sure, refrigeration is always the safest way to keep them.