Why eggs need to be refrigerated in US, but not Europe

The common goal of minimizing a health risk is the same, but the methods of doing so are different

Stock image. cottonbro studio (Pexels)

If you are an American who has ever visited Europe, you might have noticed something a little different if ever visiting a grocery store or in somebody’s kitchen.

Why is it that eggs are stored on a shelf instead of a refrigerator like they are back home in the United States?

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Well, here’s an explainer why that is the case, according to thespruceeats.com.

It starts with risk of salmonella

Chickens often have salmonella, a bacteria that sometimes can cause ailment such as a fever or stomach issues.

Salmonella can be spread by chickens both within the shell before eggs are laid, or on the shell after eggs are laid.

While the common goal in the United States and Europe is to eliminate or greatly decrease the risk of salmonella, how they go about doing so is different.

Processing eggs in the United States

Federal regulations require commercially-produced eggs to be cleaned and sanitized before reaching consumers, so eggs are typically washed in order to get rid of salmonella.

However, doing so eliminates a protective barrier on the shell called the cuticle, which actually makes the egg at greater risk of other contamination.

To combat that risk, eggs are then refrigerated to prevent any other bacteria from growing. Eggs typically have an expiration date up to 30 days after being packed in the carton, according to Business Insider.

Eggs that are left out in room temperature for more than two hours should be thrown away, according to The Spruce Eats.

Processing eggs in Europe

Things are done a little different on the other side of the Atlantic. One, various countries in Europe vaccinate chickens against salmonella beforehand.

In addition, eggs are not washed like they are in the United States, so the cuticle is left on the shell. As a result, eggs can be stored at room temperature instead of needing to be refrigerated.

However, eggs in Europe are marked “best before” 28 days after they were laid, so they need to get to consumers quicker because they have a shorter shelf-life.

Is there a method that is better for reducing risk of salmonella?

Japan and Sweden are two countries that like the U.S. washes eggs, according to The Spruce Eats. There are varying opinions, but the general consensus is that both methods are effective.

A report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture stated that the U.S. method is better, citing a study published in Poultry Science that the U.S. approach ensured a higher quality of eggs after 15 weeks of storage.

Tiffany Swan, a food scientist and chef, said to The Spruce Eats that she likes the European model better because “salmonella isn’t as common in Europe.”

However, Brian Chau, a food scientist trained through the FDA’s foreign supplier verification program, told The Business Insider that each method works.

“Neither method of food safety protocols are better at protecting against salmonella,” he said.

About the Author

Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.

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