If you’ve ever been to USA, you will notice that they sell eggs in a different area of the grocery store than in many other countries. We are used to finding our eggs stacked on shelves, often near the baking supplies, but Americans refrigerate eggs in their stores. Find out why they do this, and how to safely prepare egg dishes.
To understand why egg production and storage differs, we have to take a look at a pesky bacteria called Salmonella. Chickens who are infected with Salmonella can pass this nasty tummy bug onto people, via their eggs. Salmonella can be life-threatening, particularly for vulnerable people, such as the young, the elderly and those with other health issues. Storing and preparing eggs correctly goes a long way to preventing this.
Eggs actually have a pretty good protection from dirt and grime inbuilt; a thin coating over the egg shell that keeps water and oxygen in, and nasty bacteria out. A hundred years or so ago, most countries washed their eggs, but not all of them washed them well enough, and there were outbreaks of Salmonella poisoning. The reaction of the countries to this risk was either to insist on washing or to ban washing. In additions, some European countries also insist that hens are vaccinated against Salmonella.
If you wash the eggs’ protective coating off, then you have to replace it with something else – a thin coating of oil. And you have to keep the eggs clean and cool. Which means refrigeration.
The USA decided to go down the route of washing and refrigerating – and the important thing here is that the chain is unbroken, from washing and boxing, to transport in the stores, and then in the customer’s home. One advantage of this method is that you can keep eggs a lot longer. This film shows the process
The cost of washing and refrigerating is the down-side – this video shows the much simpler process without washing. The eggs are ‘candled’, which means that a bright light is shone through them, to check for imperfections both inside the egg, and cracks of the shell.
In UK, the British Lion stamp was introduced in 1998, so that customers could tell which eggs were laid by hens who were vaccinated against Salmonella. This has led to a dramatic drop in cases of Salmonella in UK. Some smaller farms and organic farms don’t use the British Lion mark.
So, which way is better? There is no clear answer to that. Both methods bring the same result – safer and delicious eggs on our table.
How To Prepare Eggs Safely
- In UK – look for the British Lion mark to be sure that eggs have come from hens vaccinated against salmonella
- Check the date stamp if the eggs have one, and if you take them out of the box, use them in date order
- Be aware that small and organic farms may not have the British Lion stamp, or a date stamp
- Store eggs at a constant temperature below 20°C (best is in the fridge) away from strong smelling food and raw meat
- Store eggs pointed end downwards for maximum freshness and a centred yolk
- Take them out of the fridge half an hour before cooking for best results
- To be completely safe, it is advised to cook the eggs until both yolk and white are firm. If you are using raw eggs (eg. in a mousse) or lightly cooked (boiled eggs with soldiers!), then only use very fresh eggs to minimise the risk of Salmonella — and don’t give to the very young, the elderly, pregnant women, or to those who have other health issues. Older eggs are fine in cakes, as they will be well cooked.
- Don’t use cracked or broken eggs
- Don’t reheat left-overs
Not sure if your egg is still ok? Check out this video by TweenChef Cat!
Featured Image by Lisa Ouellette via Flickr