If you’ve ever been to Europe, you may have noticed something strange in the grocery aisle: eggs sitting out on the shelf, unrefrigerated. Meanwhile, in the United States, most of us are taught from a young age to store our eggs in the fridge.
So, what’s the deal? Do you really need to keep your eggs in the fridge, or is it just a cultural difference? We dug deep to find out.
First, let’s talk about why refrigeration is even a thing. It all comes down to one pesky bacteria: Salmonella. This bacteria can cause serious illness if it enters the food supply, and eggs are a common source of Salmonella outbreaks. In fact, in the 1970s and 1980s, eggs were responsible for 77% of Salmonella outbreaks in the United States. Yikes.
To combat this issue, the FDA requires commercially sold eggs in the United States to be stored and transported below 45°F (7°C). This helps to limit the growth of Salmonella and prevent contamination. However, it’s important to note that refrigeration does not actually kill bacteria, it just slows their growth.
So, what about those unrefrigerated European eggs? Well, it turns out that many European countries have taken a different approach to egg safety. Instead of refrigerating their eggs, they focus on improving sanitation and vaccinating hens against Salmonella. This method has been highly effective at preventing infection, and as a result, it’s considered unnecessary to refrigerate eggs in much of Europe.
However, it’s important to note that the United States and Europe treat eggs differently, so if you’re traveling or living abroad, you should follow local food safety guidelines.
Another factor to consider is that refrigeration can actually have some downsides. For one thing, eggs can absorb odors and flavors from other foods in the fridge, which can affect their taste. Additionally, cold eggs may not be the best for baking, as some chefs claim that room-temperature eggs are actually better for certain recipes.
So, should you refrigerate your eggs or not? The answer depends on where you live and your personal preferences. In the United States, it’s safest to refrigerate your eggs to minimize the risk of food poisoning. However, if you’re in Europe or another part of the world where eggs are traditionally unrefrigerated, it’s generally fine to keep them at room temperature for a few weeks.