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Do Eggs Belong in the Refrigerator?

By Sara Butler

You’re probably used to keeping your eggs in the refrigerator, but if you have ever traveled to other countries, you might notice that some don’t refrigerate eggs. Shocking? Perhaps.

In the United States, it’s not considered safe to store eggs at room temperatures, but that’s not a universally held belief. Here are the facts behind egg storage so you know which option is the best – and safest – for your family.

Salmonella

The reason it’s not considered safe to store eggs at room temperature is because of the threat of salmonella. Salmonella is a kind of bacteria which usually lives in the intestines of warm-blooded animals. It’s safe to have in your intestinal tract, but it’s not safe once it enters the food supply. Symptoms of salmonella poisoning include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever

It can be a very dangerous infection for people who have a compromised immune system, those who are very young, or those who are very old. The most common sources of outbreaks of this bacterium are:

  • Eggs
  • Peanut butter
  • Chicken
  • Alfalfa sprouts

In order to prevent outbreaks, it’s really important for eggs to be stored, handled, and cooked properly. And while there’s no difference in the eggs bought in the United States and other countries, the way countries deal with salmonella is different, which accounts for the difference in philosophy of egg storage.

In the United States

When you buy eggs in the States, they have gone through an external treatment process to cut down on bacteria before they’re sold. They are washed and then sprayed with disinfectants. That takes care of bacteria on the outside of the shell but not bacteria that may be inside the egg.

Refrigeration doesn’t kill bacteria present in or outside the egg, but it does keep bacteria from multiplying and can help to reduce the number of people who contract an illness from eggs. Refrigeration also works to keep bacteria from entering the shell if it does happen to be present on the outside, which is exactly why in this country it is recommended by the Food and Drug Administration to keep them at a temperature of 45 degrees Fahrenheit or below.

Once eggs have been refrigerated, it’s also really important to keep them that way. If they warm up, then condensation can form on the outside, making it much easier for bacteria to get inside and quickly multiply.

When it comes to eggs the answer is simple: Refrigerate them. It will increase the chances that you and your family will continue to stay free from illness and reap only benefits from eating eggs. 

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