Dear Tante Lene,
“While traveling in Germany, I noticed that the eggs in supermarkets are not refrigerated. Is this a potential health issue and are they safe to eat?”
Your loving nephew,
Many consumers traveling through Germany may wonder why, even in the hottest summers, the eggs are sold in supermarkets at room temperature. Can’t bacteria penetrate them? Can we leave them out at home instead of refrigerating them? This is something even your Tante Lene has questioned.
This practice is not without controversy. Many years ago, retired egg expert John Peterson, of the University of Bonn said, “It is true that eggs can lay out due to the natural protective layer they have, the cuticle.”
Since eggs are not washed in Germany, but only lightly brushed off, they may be kept unrefrigerated for approximately 18 days. At this time the egg’s cuticle, which is germicidal, is no longer effective and the eggs must be refrigerated. Since the consumer does not always look at the expiration date, it is a good rule of thumb to store eggs in the refrigerator immediately after your purchase.
Once they have been cooled you can no longer store them at room temperature since the rapid temperature changes also impairs the protective coating allowing germs to penetrate to the interior.
In the US it is mandatory that the eggs are refrigerated in all retail stores. Due to the fear of salmonella infection, eggs are washed immediately after laying. This breaks down the shells natural protective layer exposing the egg to all kinds germs. When in doubt, refrigerate.
Photo by Pietro Izzo via Flickr