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Why Most Countries Don’t Refrigerate Eggs

Don't Refrigerate Eggs

If you’ve never traveled outside the country, you might think that it’s normal to refrigerate eggs. Although that *is* true in America, in a lot of other places, this is not the norm. Europeans, for example, don’t bother with refrigeration of eggs. Instead of keeping them near the dairy products like we do in America, eggs end up being placed near nonperishable foods. This likely dispels the myth that eggs absolutely have to be refrigerated in order to be kept fresh; this is not the case, and in America, we do it that way because of differences in egg production.

One part of egg processing in America is washing the eggs. Specifically, they’re sprayed with a chemical sanitizer to disinfect them. This is supposed to reduce the risk of salmonella infection. Conversely, in the UK, eggs aren’t washed. The reasoning is that the process of washing might actually serve to transfer harmful bacteria, salmonella included, from the shell of the egg to its precious contents inside. Because of these differences, eggs sold in the US could not be sold in the UK. The reverse is also true; both sets of eggs fail to meet the standards of the other region.

Salmonella

Salmonella

Salmonella poses a risk to health. In regards to hens, it can infect the egg supply in two ways. If the hen itself is infected, then the bacteria can make it into the egg as it is being formed. However, salmonella can also reach the eggshell after laying; this happens if the egg comes in contact with the hen’s feces. In the US, this is not entirely uncommon due to the farming techniques. Lots of hens are crammed into a small space, which generates a higher egg yield for a given amount of land, but causing an infection-prone environment.

Among causes of food poisoning, salmonella is a big one for the United States. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration believes that on a yearly basis, about 150,000 people are stricken with salmonella. While common, one might argue salmonella is not a significant health concern, even without treatment. While it is true that Salmonella is rarely deadly, it can result in a number of distressing digestive symptoms- diarrhea, cramps, nausea, and vomiting. If not treated promptly, sometimes it can end up spreading to other parts of the body or becoming typhoid fever, both of which can quickly prove fatal.

How the US Handles Salmonella

food safety

Because of these farming techniques, it is imperative to wash the eggs very quickly after they have been laid. This is accomplished with a conveyor belt washing system, where the eggs are sprayed. However, there is some risk here, as well: due to the way that bacteria can breed in moisture, bacteria on a wet egg can actually breed and perhaps penetrate the shell. Therefore, the eggs must be washed very carefully at a temperature of at least 90 degrees Fahrenheit; this is to control the contraction of egg contents, which left unchecked, might draw contaminated water into the egg.