Should Eggs Be Refrigerated?
The answer is yes. Here’s why.
Eggs are good for you! Every nutrient-rich egg packs around 70 calories and fits into just about everybody’s eating pattern. In fact, billions of eggs are consumed in the United States each year, largely with no ill effect.
If you didn’t know, we all play a part in keeping the egg a healthy success story. How? Simple. We refrigerate them before eating them. It’s how we help ourselves from getting an egg-borne illness, primarily Salmonella.
Salmonella is a bacterium that causes infection in the intestine, or food poisoning. Of the many places it lives, it thrives on and in chickens and eggs, especially within a hen’s reproductive tract and its poop. Obviously, these breeding grounds forSalmonella are connected, which gives an egg little chance of shedding the pesky germ. If Salmonella exists in a chicken, chances are good that it exists both in and on the hen’s eggs.
On an industrial level precautions are taken to reduce the risk of Salmonella prior to eggs reaching the store. Egg producers in the United States are required to follow Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards that ensure eggs are washed and sanitized prior to getting packaged and refrigerated. At the store, eggs remain refrigerated until purchase.
While the FDA process helps to eliminate any Salmonella riding on an egg shell, unfortunately the precaution does not entirely remove the risk of Salmonella. Even an excess of washing and sanitizing will not remove Salmonella from inside an egg. Bacteria follows no rules, other than to thrive where it can.
A number of European countries have taken a step to reduce the risk of Salmonella in its hens, and it is largely successful. By law, in those countries hens are vaccinated to prevent the spread of food-borne illness like Salmonella. Once a hen is treated, the Salmonella is eliminated from a hen’s reproductive system and by extension its poop. Enter the Salmonella-free egg, one that can no longer naturally package the germ with its egg. As a result, the human risk for Salmonella is low in those countries, whereas it is high across the United States.
Which takes us to your refrigerator. Once an egg from an American chicken is chilled, it needs to stay chilled. Cold eggs left out for more than a couple hours start to warm and grow bacteria. In addition, refrigeration will not kill or reduce bacteria that already exists on or in an egg. A cold temperature will, however, keep bacteria from growing or penetrating an egg. And for a kicker, refrigerating an egg doubles its shelf life to four or five weeks.
If you raise backyard chickens, assuring the cleanliness of your eggs is up to you. Be diligent in washing your hands and any items that come in contact with your eggs.
Which takes us to your stove. Through a pan or pot, heat delivers a death knell to any trace of Salmonella. It is recommended to cook egg dishes to an internal temperature of 160 F or hotter.