It is a question anyone who has ever eaten or cooked an egg might want to ask: How should we store them? That’s because the way eggs are stored depends on where they’re produced.
Prompted by concerns about spoilage and foodborne illnesses, U.S. egg producers and processors began washing and refrigerating their eggs in the early 1970s. Other countries soon followed suit, and eggs are now washed and refrigerated in Canada, Japan, and Scandinavia. But the approach has never caught on in most of the European Union, where eggs are neither washed nor refrigerated. They are kept at room temperatures, even in stores. The rationale is that a chicken egg is coated with a thin, protective “cuticle,” or membrane, that prevents Salmonella and other bacteria from penetrating the shell. Some Europeans argue that makes refrigeration unnecessary and that washing the egg washes away the cuticle.
“The long-held belief in Europe has been that you don’t want to disturb the cuticle of the egg after it comes out of the reproductive tract because it’s protective,” says Deana Jones, an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) food technologist in Athens, Georgia.
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