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The Reason We Refrigerate Eggs May Surprise You

Refinery29 logo Refinery29 4/21/2017 Marshall Bright

Refinery29 © Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet. Refinery29

What we do and don't refrigerate is so ingrained in us that even a question about where you store your ketchup can tear the internet apart. Which is why we were surprised to learn, that when it comes to eggs, refrigeration isn't always necessary.

The reason we keep eggs in the fridge has less to do with food spoilage and more to do with food poisoning. In Europe, where eggs can be purchased at room temperature, eggs can be kept for up to 21 days. But that doesn't mean you can start keeping your American eggs on the counter now. Food spoilage – think the kind of science experiment-type molds you find in your Tupperware — isn't the fear. It's about how different parts of the world deal with the threat of Salmonella.

"In Europe, they vaccinate chickens against salmonella, so fewer of their eggs run the risk of salmonella inside the egg," explains Marianne H. Gravely, a Senior Technical Information Specialist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "In this country, we don’t vaccinate the chickens against salmonella." The risk of an egg having salmonella inside it is relatively low, but it's still there. By refrigerating eggs, we're really protecting against salmonella, not preventing spoilage. Food spoilage happens, even in the fridge (Remember that science experiment mentioned earlier?), but colder temperatures will stop the growth or spread of salmonella, which can spread at room temperature.

If you're willing to play roulette with salmonella on your eggs by keeping them out of the fridge (or salvaging them if you accidentally leave them out), let us just give you one parting word: Don't. The eggs have been kept cold since they left the factory, and bringing them up to room temperature can cause condensation that facilitates bacteria growth. According to the Egg Safety Center, eggs should be kept at room temperature for no more than two hours before being refrigerated again.

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