By November 29, 2013 3 Comments

Why Do Americans Refrigerate Their Eggs

Refrigeration of eggs makes them safer to eat, but shouldn’t be necessary.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever wondered why eggs are refrigerated in America? Surprisingly, this is not practiced in other parts of the world. It then begs the question: Why do Americans store eggs in the fridge?

Well, it’s because American farms wash their eggs and dip them in chlorine as a way to disinfect them from nasties like salmonella and make them last longer before they spoil.

Research has shown that Salmonella-infected eggs stored at room temperature for periods longer than three weeks tend to become overrun by bacteria in numbers far greater than those stored at colder temperatures. Given this insight, you might assume that Americans store their eggs in the fridge to extend their shelf life, or to lower the risk of bacterial contamination, and you’d be right on both counts.

So if it’s such a good thing, why aren’t other countries doing it?

Well, because, unlike America, they may not actually need to. Why? Because here in America, we wash our eggs – and while it may sound counterintuitive, the cleaning process may actually make eggs more susceptible to contamination.

Huh? That doesn’t compute!

Well, hens lay eggs with a protective coating known as the cuticle. It prevents bacteria from contaminating it. Washing the eggs strips away this layer and makes them more susceptible to contamination.

So important is the cuticle that the EU prohibit the washing of eggs. Here’s their stance:

“Such damage,” the EU guidelines note, “may favour trans-shell contamination with bacteria and moisture loss and thereby increase the risk to consumers, particularly if subsequent drying and storage conditions are not optimal.”

The EU’s stance on refrigeration is also an unfavorable one. They say;

… eggs that are stored cold and later left out at room temperatures could become covered in condensation, “facilitating the growth of bacteria on the shell and probably their ingression into the egg.”

In the UK, hens are immunized against salmonella – a legal requirement. As a result, salmonella infections have dropped from 14,771 in 1997 to 581 in 2009. This law does not exist in the US and as a result, 150,000 egg related salmonella cases are reported each year.

Source: io9

Posted in: Food & Nutrition

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