Refrigeration is important part of egg safety

Published 9:16 am Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Question: I’ve started buying farm fresh eggs and my producer tells me if they aren’t washed they can be kept out on the counter and not refrigerated. Is that true?
Answer: Well, yes and no. The egg producer is correct in that fresh eggs have a “bloom” to protect the egg but USDA does NOT recommend leaving eggs outside refrigeration.
When the egg is first laid by the chicken, it has an invisible layer that seals the pores in the shell to help prevent bacteria from getting inside the shell and reduce moisture loss. That’s nature’s way of protecting the new chick. Wiping or washing eggs removes this protective coating and reduces the lifetime of the egg.
Bacteria can be on the outside of the egg shell and could be transferred to the inside when the egg is cracked open. It is also possible for eggs to become infected by Salmonella Enteritidis fecal contamination through the pores of the shells after they’re laid. Keep in mind, the egg exits the hen’s body through the same passageway as feces are excreted. The surface of an egg can also become contaminated with microorganisms from nesting materials, feed, storage containers, and through handling by human beings. That’s why eggs are required to be washed at the processing plant. All USDA graded eggs and most large volume processors follow the washing step with a sanitizing rinse at the processing plant.
According to USDA, “eggs are among the most nutritious foods on earth and can be part of a healthy diet. However, they are perishable just like raw meat, poultry, and fish. Unbroken, clean, fresh shell eggs may contain Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. While the number of eggs affected is quite small, there have been cases of foodborne illness in the last few years. To be safe, eggs must be safely handled, promptly refrigerated, and thoroughly cooked.”
Because eggs remain the primary source of SE infections, continued actions to improve egg safety are the most effective way to reduce the overall number of SE infections and outbreaks and to achieve our public health goals.
Per the Egg Safety Final Rule by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), eggs are required to be refrigerated at 45° F or lower as soon as possible. After eggs are refrigerated, it is important to keep them that way. A cold egg left out at room temperature can sweat, facilitating the growth of bacteria that could contaminate the egg. Refrigerated eggs should not be left out more than two hours. Reducing temperature fluctuation is critical to egg safety.
Vickie Clark is the Director of the Carter County UT Extension Office and also serves as the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent. If you have questions or need any information related to Family and Consumer Science contact her at the UT Extension Carter County, 824 East Elk Ave., Elizabethton, call 542-1818 or email at

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