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How We Store Our Eggs -- Bonus Content

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Stacks of eggs in cartons awaiting the washing process

Eggs awaiting the washing process. (The American Egg Board, D3991-1)

Q & A about storing eggs safely


Why do U.S. egg producers and processors wash and refrigerate eggs?

Washing and refrigerating eggs keeps the eggs fresh, rids the shell surface of bacteria, and reduces the risk that bacteria will penetrate the shell and sicken someone who eats it. Refrigeration also increases egg shelf life from about 21 days to 15 weeks....

Should eggs be refrigerated at home?

Yes. Eggs should be kept in their carton and placed in the coldest part of the refrigerator, not in the door. Refrigerated eggs should not be left out more than 2 hours. Any bacteria in or on an egg can multiply quickly at room temperature, and a cold egg left out at room temperature can sweat, increasing the potential movement and growth of bacteria.

Should you also wash eggs at home?

No. It's not necessary or recommended, and it may increase the risk of contamination because the wash water can be drawn into the egg through pores in the shell. Retail eggs are washed under controlled conditions to ensure egg safety and quality. Thorough cooking will destroy harmful bacteria that may be in an egg.

What are the risks of eating improperly stored eggs?

 Salmonella Enteritidis can infect a yolk or egg white either as the egg forms in the hen or by penetrating the shell after the egg is laid. Cooking usually kills the bacteria, but eggs contaminated with Salmonella are responsible for about 142,000 illnesses a year in the United States, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

What about imported eggs?

Eggs imported into the United States, packed for consumer use, must include certification that they have been stored and transported at temperatures no higher than 45 ˚F.

Source: USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service and Deana Jones, USDA Agricultural Research Service.

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