Refrigerated eggs versus shelves: Is one method safer?

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Washed eggs become more sensitive to temperature fluctuations and must be kept at low temperatures to prevent bacterial contamination. | Dr. Vincent Guyonnet

If you have traveled overseas and visited with an interested eye the local grocery stores and food markets, have you ever wondered why some countries, mainly the U.S. and Canada, sell eggs under refrigeration, while most other countries sell them on regular shelves? 

Read the entire report about egg storage exclusively in the February issue of Poultry International.

A key principle from the Codex Alimentarius, the grouping of food standards adopted by the FAO/WHO’s Codex Alimentarius Committee, is that “from primary production to the point of consumption, eggs should be subject to effective and validated control measures intended to achieve the appropriate level of public health protection.” 

Interestingly, under this same principle of food safety, two camps have been created and have adopted opposite tactics. 

In most of the world, eggs are not refrigerated throughout the distribution channel and sold in stores as non-refrigerated items usually next to baking goods. Along with that, the washing of eggs  on farms or in egg packing stations is not permitted. This allows for the cuticle, a fine coating deposited by the hen during the last stage of the egg formation, to continue to play its role as a protective barrier throughout the life of the egg. 

In a very few countries, the eggs are kept under refrigeration, starting often right on the farms. Eggs will then be washed at warm temperatures, blow dried, packed and kept under refrigeration all the way to the shelves of the stores. When refrigerated, eggs are more sensitive to temperature fluctuations and will “sweat” quickly if exposed to warmer temperatures, increasing the potential risk of bacterial contamination through the eggshell or the development of fungus or mildew on the shell. 

So, is one method safer than the other? 

In this issue of Poultry International, you will also learn about:

Read the full article.

Dr. Vincent Guyonnet is a consultant to the Poultry sector with a focus on international development.

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