We all knew there were certain things that set Americans apart from the rest of Earth’s citizenry. But did we know that how we store our eggs is one of those things? Maybe not. But thanks to TikTok user Maureen Sparrow, thousands of people are thinking and talking about it now.
Maureen Sparrow recently posted a TikTok video stating that the United States was the only country on the planet that refrigerates its eggs. The video has generated a lot of discussion and debate, not to mention word from other countries where they also refrigerate their eggs. But what’s up with egg storage, anyway? What’s the issue? Let’s dive into it, starting with Sparrow’s video:
<blockquote class=”tiktok-embed” cite=”https://www.tiktok.com/@maurensparrow/video/6822301329369681158″ data-video-id=”6822301329369681158″ style=”max-width: 605px;min-width: 325px;” > <section> <a target=”_blank” title=”@maurensparrow” href=”https://www.tiktok.com/@maurensparrow”>@maurensparrow</a> <p>Ok, but did you know this <a title=”funfact” target=”_blank” href=”https://www.tiktok.com/tag/funfact”>##funfact</a> ? 🤔 . <a title=”themoreyouknow” target=”_blank” href=”https://www.tiktok.com/tag/themoreyouknow”>##themoreyouknow</a> <a title=”tiktokeducation” target=”_blank” href=”https://www.tiktok.com/tag/tiktokeducation”>##tiktokeducation</a> <a title=”funfacts” target=”_blank” href=”https://www.tiktok.com/tag/funfacts”>##funfacts</a> <a title=”eggucation” target=”_blank” href=”https://www.tiktok.com/tag/eggucation”>##eggucation</a> <a title=”eggs” target=”_blank” href=”https://www.tiktok.com/tag/eggs”>##eggs</a></p> <a target=”_blank” title=”♬ original sound – maurensparrow” href=”https://www.tiktok.com/music/original-sound-6822301314676968197″>♬ original sound – maurensparrow</a> </section> </blockquote> <script async src=”https://www.tiktok.com/embed.js”></script>
As it turns out, Sparrow is wrong on one main point. Americans are not the only people who refrigerate their eggs. Canadians, Australians, and citizens of Japan, at least, keep Americans company in this regard. But a lot of Sparrow’s other information is correct. Who knew there was so much to consider in relation to egg handling?
Managing The Risk Of Salmonella Amongst American Eggs
Most of America’s eggs come from very large laying operations where the risk of the transmission of the bacteria salmonella to those eggs is higher than in the smaller free-range egg-laying operations that are more common in Europe. Salmonella can affect American-laid eggs in at least a couple of ways:
- a hen with salmonella can pass that bacteria to the egg’s interior before it is laid, and
- the feces of an infected hen can get onto the shell of a newly laid egg
Eating an egg affected by salmonella can cause fever, cramps, and diarrhea that can last from half a day to three days. Multi-state salmonella outbreaks have been linked to eggs laid by backyard chicks and ducklings. The risk of salmonella has prompted regulations and guidelines from at least two government agencies in the United States — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United States Department of Agriculture.
The CDC recommends that people refrigerate their eggs at 40°F (4°C) or colder at all times in order to reduce the risk of salmonella infections. The USDA mandates that all graded eggs sold in supermarkets in the United States be washed and chemically sanitized before those eggs are purchased by customers.
The Ironic Downside Of Government-Mandated Egg Washing
The washing and sterilization process can occasionally damage the outermost layer of the egg’s shell — the cuticle. A damaged cuticle is more likely to permit penetration by bacteria including salmonella. So the washing process to reduce the risk of salmonella can also raise the risk of salmonella contamination, meaning the eggs should be refrigerated. All of that provides some explanation for why Americans refrigerate their eggs: protection from bacteria plus a general belief that cooler storage keeps eggs fresher for longer.
But Why Don’t Europeans Refrigerate Their Eggs?
But why don’t Europeans and people in other countries store their eggs in the refrigerator? First, they generally believe that their smaller-scale egg production facilities have a lower risk of salmonella bacteria affecting eggs in the first place.
Second, European countries like Ireland don’t generally wash their eggs at all before they are sold, out of a belief that washing can actually aid the transfer of bacteria from outside to the inside of the egg. European egg producers focus on egg cleanliness at the point of production rather than prior to sale. European Union egg marketing laws do not allow eggs sold in supermarkets to be washed or cleaned.
Third, since the eggs aren’t washed, the cuticle isn’t damaged and the risk of salmonella — already lower because of smaller-scale production — isn’t exacerbated by the washing and sterilization process.
So, Americans aren’t the only people who store their eggs in the fridge. But even if they were, there are plenty of good reasons for doing so!
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