Up until fairly recently, eggs were kept on the counter rather than in the icebox. Now, some people will cite concern over bacteria or foodborne illness, but that doesn't properly explain why we insist on keeping eggs refrigerated in the U.S. when so many other countries seem content to leave them out?
Why are eggs refrigerated in the U.S.?
According to the USDA, eggs are refrigerated out of concern about salmonella contamination. Eggs that go from cold to warm end up sweating at room temperature. If they stay out too long, bacteria can grow. The USDA recommends that eggs not be left out of the refrigerator for more than two hours maximum. If the temperature is over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, it shouldn’t be more than an hour.
Salmonella infection is a bacterial disease that affects the intestinal tract. The CDC states that salmonella can cause diarrhea, fever, and severe cramping that lasts anywhere from four days to several weeks after the initial infection. But if salmonella is such an issue, why is it that other countries don’t seem to be as worried about keeping their eggs cool?
What causes salmonella in eggs?
According to the Egg Safety Center, salmonella contamination is not caused by the eggs themselves, but by sanitizing them before they are shipped off to the consumer. This sanitation is necessary, because of the many other contaminants that might be present on eggs raised in modern U.S. egg factories.
Unfortunately, while the process does remove any potential bacteria from the surface of the egg, it also removes the egg’s natural protective coating, rendering the shell porous enough for other foodborne illnesses to creep their way inside. Thus, the eggs must be kept refrigerated to prevent anything else from growing.
Why aren’t eggs refrigerated outside the U.S.?
Other parts of the world deal with salmonella by letting the eggs themselves take care of it. If the coating remains on the eggs, the eggs won’t catch salmonella. In some places, the laying hens themselves are vaccinated so that they don’t contract salmonella in the first place. According to Organic Valley, not all countries use this tactic. Japan, Australia, and New Zealand wash and refrigerate their eggs just like us. Most countries across Asia and Europe store eggs out of the fridge.
Should you refrigerate eggs?
Whether you refrigerate eggs all depends on the country in question. If your eggs are in the fridge at the store, then get those bad boys in the fridge as soon as you get home. Most U.S. readers will be stuck with this option, but those who raise chickens or get their eggs from organic farmers might be lucky enough to store their eggs the old-fashioned way.
So long as the eggs haven’t been washed, farm fresh eggs should last around two weeks without refrigeration. If you put them into the fridge, you can get about three months out of them, according to Mother Earth News.