Eggs are a staple of the American diet. They’re a delicious way to incorporate protein and Vitamin B2 into breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and they’re so easy to make that you basically only need to know how to turn on a stove.
But as it turns out, eggs could do us more harm than good. The expiration date on egg cartons isn’t always accurate… and missing the real date could cost you dearly.
But when you compare this number with the sell-by date on your carton, you might be surprised by what you find.
To think that our eggs could have been rotting in their packages for a month before we scramble them is more than a little disturbing. So please remember to always check the Julian number!
On one side are those who think that unless eggs are put in the fridge — which has a plastic rack for the purpose — there is a risk of food poisoning.
According to the British Egg Information Service, the only place to keep food cool and avoid temperature fluctuations is the fridge, ‘hence the advice on egg packs’.
This view is backed by two experts at Bristol University’s School of Veterinary Science, Dr Rosamund Baird and Dr Janet Corry, who say that if an egg is contaminated with the bacteria salmonella, storing it at room temperature allows the salmonella to multiply.
Worryingly, they say, you won’t be able to spot any change in colour, smell or consistency.
‘Salmonella will not multiply in the fridge,’ they say.
In a U.S. study in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture last year, investigators subjected eggs to a battery of tests to assess their quality, after they had stored more than 2,000 of them at various temperatures for up to four weeks.
The study reported that egg quality was found to deteriorate at four weeks in temperatures of 7.2 c or above (room temperature is normally taken to be 20 c).
The optimum temperature for lengthy storage, said investigators from Texas A&M University’s department of poultry science, was between 0.6 c and 2.2 c.
A fridge’s temperature is typically between 1.7 c and 3.3 c — but obviously you can adjust it to fit your chosen parameters.
Other U.S. scientists are even more cautious. The highly respected Mayo Clinic recommends you throw away eggs if they have been left out of the fridge for more than two hours.
Tim Hayward, who presents the Food Programme on BBC Radio 4 and is a restaurant columnist for the Financial Times, says: ‘A fresh, free-range egg should last beautifully at room temperature for at least a week.
‘The racks in the fridge door are the worst place to store eggs. The constant shaking thins the whites and the flavours of other foods can penetrate the shell.’
The fridge shunners have also won support from an unlikely source — the Royal Navy’s Trident submarine force.
Michael Perkins, a former Navy man from Fareham, Hampshire, revealed in a letter to a news-paper that when he served on nuclear submarines in the Nineties, ‘the bulk of the eggs would be stored in the sonar electrical compartment, in relatively warm ambient temperatures, and would remain perfectly edible throughout the long voyage’.
The only precaution the crew took was to turn over the boxes every few days, in order to prevent the yolks settling.
People have got into the habit of refrigerating absolutely everything when often there is no need.
In similar vein, Fay Ripley, the actor and author of What’s For Dinner, says she leaves eggs out of the fridge because ‘it makes them better for cooking’.
The Mail commissioned the West Yorkshire-based FoodTest Laboratories to compare batches of Lion-branded British eggs bought from Tesco.
FoodTest provides the food and drink industry with government-approved laboratory analysis to ensure the safety, quality and legality of their products.
The company kept two batches of eggs for a fortnight, one at room temperature, the other at a typical fridge temperature of 6c.
Samples from both batches were regularly tested for nasties such as E.coli, the superbug staphylococcus aureus, salmonella, listeria and campylobacter.
The results, taken at the start point of the test, at the end of the first week and at the end of the second week, were all the same.
There was no difference whatsoever between the two batches. Both remained bacteria-free.
Jay Tolley, the operations and quality manager at FoodTest, confirmed that where safety is concerned: ‘There is no advantage in keeping the eggs refrigerated as opposed to storing them at ambient room temperature.’
The results of our admittedly small-scale but highly scientific test show it seems perfectly OK to keep your Lion-branded eggs outside the fridge.
So there you are — we’ve cracked it.