Egg storage

Washing and chilling may not be so smart

January 16, 2014

Back in November, the website io9 wondered why Americans always refrigerate their eggs, while most other citizens of the planet don’t bother.

“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,” wrote Robert T. Gonzalez. So why does the rest of the world leave their eggs sitting out on the shelf?

Because, Gonzalez declared, here in the States, our eggs are washed — which, counterintuitively, can actually ensure contamination. The industrial washing process strips the eggs of their natural protective coating, making bacterial contamination (think salmonella) more likely.

And then, of course, we store our eggs in the fridge -- but if we’re not consistent about that storage, and temperatures fluctuate, condensation can form on the eggs, encouraging bacterial growth.

Salmonella is far more prevalent in the States than elsewhere, noted Gonzalez. In Britain, for example, all hens are immunized by law against salmonella. In the U.S., immunization is left up to the individual farmer.

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