If you’ve ever been to a supermarket in the UK, you were probably surprised — if not a little grossed out — to see stacks of eggs hanging out with nary a refrigerated one in sight. As it turns out, we might actually be the crazy ones.
In the U.S., the Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires that eggs destined to be sold on supermarket shelves — called graded eggs — are washed and sprayed with a chemical sanitizer before they are sold to the public to reduce the risk of salmonella infection.
In the U.K., Grade A hen eggs may not be washed because the process is thought to “aid the transfer of harmful bacteria like salmonella from the outside to the inside of the egg,” according to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. In fact, Forbes contributor Nadia Arumugam pointed out that USDA graded eggs could not be legally sold in the U.K. (and the other way around) due to these different preparation methods.
So what does all that have to do with refrigeration? Since the US generally uses factory farm environments to raise our chickens, our eggs are far more susceptible to salmonella contamination. Which means that washing the eggs is absolutely imperative. In the UK, though, farmers prioritise producing “clean eggs at the point of collection, rather than trying to clean them afterwards.”
But as BI notes, “scientists have found that the washing process may damage an outside layer of the egg shell known as the cuticle,” which would make it easier for bacteria to sneak inside. The cooler temperatures of a refrigerator, though, help prevent eggs from deteriorating quite so fast. BI goes on to explain why salmonella just isn’t as big of a problem in the UK as it is in the US. The whole report is fascinating, though, and you can read it in full over at Business Insider here. [Business Insider via Digg]
Image: Shutterstock/Art Allianz