Why Are Eggs Refrigerated In Some Countries And Not In Others?

Why is it that in U.S. supermarkets, you find eggs in the refrigerated section, but in Europe, they sit on the shelves next to the flour and sugar? It all comes down to contamination prevention.

Egg Invaders

When it comes to food safety, the biggest risk to eggs is a little rod-shaped bacterium called Salmonella. If it gets inside you, that wily germ can cause abdominal cramping, diarrhea, and fever. Salmonella can invade eggs in one of two ways: infecting a chicken's ovaries, which leaves the yolk contaminated; and contamination from chicken feces, which can sit on the shell of an unwashed egg and get inside once it's cracked. The U.S. and Europe each have around 100,000 people fall ill from salmonella food poisoning every year, and food-safety officials make major efforts to bring those numbers down.

Protect Your Breakfast

If chicken feces is one of the main ways eggs get contaminated, it seems to make sense for producers to wash the eggs before they go to market. This is precisely what countries like the U.S. do. Here's the problem: washing removes the cuticle, a thin layer that keeps out bacterial invaders. That means that once the eggs are washed, producers have to take other steps to avoid future contamination. Refrigeration is one of those steps, as it's a great way to keep microorganisms like salmonella from multiplying to a hazardous level. That's why countries that wash their eggs also keep them in the fridge.

When countries like those in the E.U. don't wash eggs, they leave on potentially risky dirt and feces, but they also leave on the eggs' natural protection and make refrigeration less necessary. Some European countries even vaccinate hens against salmonella as one more step in the fight against food poisoning.

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Written by Ashley Hamer June 28, 2016

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