Despite there being a low risk of salmonella, some experts still recommend eggs are kept in the fridge.
Years ago, most of our condiments, including our eggs, were kept in the kitchen cupboard, but recently more and more of us are opting to move them into the fridge. Despite the fact that a new survey revealed us Brits are the least likely people in Europe to refrigerate our eggs.
So why is it that some people believe eggs, which have sat happily on our kitchen counters for so many years, should have to make the move into the cold?
Some eggs-perts *groans again* argue eggs should be kept in the fridge to avoid incidence of food poisoning, like salmonella. Indeed, The British Egg Information Service believes the only place to keep food cool and avoid temperature fluctuations is the fridge, hence the advice on egg packs and fridges actually coming with those little plastic egg holders in them.
The cupboard or fridge debate is has been rumbling on for years.
Linda Nicolaides, a Microbiologist and an expert in Food Safety & Quality Management explains how eggs could contribute to the risk of salmonella.
“There is a low risk that eggs will become infected with Salmonella Enteritidis Phage type 4 at the point of laying,” she explains. “If this happens the bacterial cells present in low numbers will be “trapped” in the white (Albumen). In fresh eggs the albumen is too viscous to allow salmonellae to move from the point of infection. As the egg is stored it absorbs moisture from the air diluting the albumen. It takes approximately three weeks for the albumen to be liquid enough to allow Salmonella to swim from the albumen into the yolk, where they can use the surrounding nutrients to increase in numbers.”
“The government recommends that eggs should be eggs in the refrigerator in the domestic situation,” adds Linda. “However they should be used within three weeks of laying to make sure the yolk is Salmonella free.”
But not all eggs-perts (sorry, sorry!) agree. Dr Martin Goldberg, a lecturer in microbiology at Nottingham Trent University argues that keeping eggs in the fridge does not alter the risk of salmonella. “There is no need to keep eggs in the fridge as the shell and membranes act as a barrier to bacteria,” he says. “When we find Salmonella in eggs, it is because they get in during formation of the eggs in the chickens’ oviducts.”
And some foodies actively discourage people from keeping eggs in the refrigerator.
“You don’t need to refrigerate eggs,” says Craig Mather, head chef at the Empire Room, Ramsgate, who’s ‘soft boiled duck egg with crispy smoked eel soldiers’ were deemed 'Starter of the Year’ by food critic Jay Rayner.
“Egg shells are porous and will absorb flavours of other foods in the fridge, such as cheese (which shouldn’t be in the fridge either) or onions,” he adds.
According to the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF), British eggs with the red ‘lion’ brand carry a very low risk of salmonella contamination and many experts believe contamination mainly occurs when the eggs are laid or soon after.
When it comes to reducing the risk of food poisoning, the NHS website advises against eating eggs that are cracked or dirty and recommend storing them away from other foods to avoid the spread of infection. They also say that cooking eggs properly significantly reduces the risk of salmonella.
So, basically, the experts are split on the egg storage dilemma, but if you keep your eggs cool, clean and cook them well, you should be just eggs-cellent (last one we promise!)