America: Doing weird things with food since the 1950s (at the very least). One such strange food practice the United States (and the Japanese, Australians and Scandinavians) is currently in the spotlight for is egg refrigeration.
Many other foreign countries leave eggs out on shelves. Normal, non-refrigerated shelves. Sounds odd, right? Eggs should be chilled, shouldn’t they? Well, it turns out that eggs don’t necessarily need to be chilled… as long as they aren’t washed.
Washing eggs incorrectly (who knew there was an incorrect way) after a chicken has laid the egg can cause eggs to go bad. Why? After a chicken lays an egg, it is enveloped in a thin sheen that protects the egg. This sheen keeps the egg non-porous, which keeps oxygen and bad bacteria out.
So, if eggs have a natural way of keeping bacteria out without being washed, why do some countries opt to wash eggs anyway? It’s all because of salmonella. America tends to have a “super clean” attitude when it comes to food, NPR reports. So, America began to clean eggs with soap and hot water as soon as they entered the world. And now that's just how it's done.
After the shells are clean, they have to refrigerated until they are consumed. So, our need to refrigerate eggs is all because our egg distributors do. Cooking an egg, however, is a different story. About 20 years ago, it was discovered that a chicken can pass salmonella infection through its ovaries to the egg. So, cooking an egg thoroughly can prevent against foodborne illness, says the USDA.
America definitely has the means for egg refrigeration through their entire “life spans,” but other countries do not. Cold storage is expensive (not to mention an energy hog). Refrigeration does have its perks, though: It can increase an egg’s shelf life from 21 days to 50 days.
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