Why Do Americans Put Eggs in the Fridge?

Have you ever seen eggs being sold on a grocery store shelf, instead of in a refrigerated unit? If you’ve been to a country other than the USA, you might have! Most countries do not store their eggs in refrigerators. Instead, they leave them out at room temperature. This might seem like a food safety hazard, but both methods are safe.

Eggs and Salmonella
Salmonella is most commonly associated with chickens, and with eggs. This is a dangerous pathogen that causes uncomfortable symptoms, if you are infected. Salmonella enteritidis can infect the eggs we eat in two different ways. It can be passed through the eggshell, and then multiply inside the egg. Or salmonella can infect a chicken’s ovaries, which could contaminate the egg. It is more likely the salmonella will be passed through the eggshell and this happens frequently enough that eggs are labeled as a food that needs time and temperature control.

Cooking eggs will usually kill this bacteria and keep you from getting sick. However, if the egg is not stored properly, the salmonella will multiply and cooking will not eliminate enough of the bacteria. This ends with unfortunate results. There are two methods to storing the eggs properly, and both are effective.

United States
In the United States, after the eggs are laid by the chickens, they go through a cleaning process. The eggs are washed in warm water and a detergent. After washing, they are rinsed and cleaned with a sanitizer to remove any remaining bacteria. The eggs are then dried to remove moisture from the surface. The result are eggs that are clean on the outside, and look spotless.

However, washing and sanitizing the outside of the egg removes the egg’s cuticle. The cuticle is a natural layer that protects the egg from harmful bacteria getting inside. If the egg had been fertilized, this is how the egg naturally protects the embryo while it is developing. Cleaning the eggs removes the cuticle, so the eggs must be kept at refrigeration temperature. Otherwise, the bacteria could easily enter the egg and multiply to dangerous levels. By keeping it out of the danger zone, salmonella can’t multiply rapidly.

Other Countries
Most other countries do not wash their eggs. They put a higher priority on the cuticle, since it naturally keeps the egg safe from salmonella. By not removing the cuticle, it also eliminates the need to refrigerate the eggs after they have been laid. These eggs are safe to store at room temperature because the egg naturally protects itself from pathogens.

The downside to leaving the cuticle on is that dirt and manure could also still be on the eggs when you buy them. The eggs shouldn’t be washed until right before you need to use them, which means they don’t always look pretty and spotless when bought from the store. The eggs must also be used more quickly than if they had been refrigerated. Refrigeration extends the shelf-life of eggs, so if they are not kept cool, consumers must use them faster.

Danger Zone
We aren’t the only country who washes our eggs. Japan, Australia, and some Scandinavian countries also wash their eggs. Our eggs join the list of TCS foods that need to be controlled by time and temperature requirements. It is vital that these foods be kept out of the danger zone, otherwise they can easily infect your customers.

Even if your establishment does not serve eggs by themselves, eggs are often used in foods as an ingredient. Once the egg is cracked open and added to a dish, it is very important to keep it out of the temperature danger zone. Keep your customers safe by following some of these time and temperature control tips.

Keep Customers Safe
No matter the method, eggs are a food that must be controlled to keep people safe. And eggs aren’t the only food that can make people sick. Keep your customers safe by checking out our courses and trainings!

Kylie Molen

Updated: June 7, 2019 — 2:42 pm
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