Day 45: Unrefrigerated Eggs!

One of my coworkers has three hens and they produce a couple of eggs a day on average. He and his wife can’t eat them all so he brings the overflow to work. And they sit in a carton on the table by his desk, completely ambivalent to the presence of a refrigerator or not.

When you go to a grocery store in New Zealand, there will be eggs in cartons stacked in the middle of the shopping isles. Again, completely uncaring about whether there is a refrigerator nearby. When I first saw this I was appalled. Yuck! Surely they must make you sick and why didn’t the store put them away?

And then we went to a friend’s house for dinner (tea) and again, eggs completely left out on the counter. My mom came to visit and, like me, was concerned and worried about eating an egg that wasn’t properly refrigerated. And completely baffled on how come the whole country hasn’t gotten sick from salmonella or food poisoning from rotten eggs.

If you’re not from the US, this may confuse you. But in America our eggs are just about always refrigerated. There may be times (like my coworker) where eggs that are home raised aren’t refrigerated but all the store-bought ones are. In New Zealand, for the most part, they are not.

And until today I didn’t know why. Curiously I turned to Google, the knower of all things egg related. And wallah, an article came up from the LA times about why you have to refrigerate your eggs in the US but not Europe — and I assume the same holds true for NZ. According to the article, the reason comes from different methods of treating salmonella. In the US, salmonella is prevented by treating the egg while in Europe, salmonella is prevented by vaccinating the chickens.

A bi-product of the US process is that a protective cuticle around the egg gets removed during washing and hens aren’t all vaccinated so if the washing process has issues it opens the door for problems. But in Europe law requires vaccinating laying hens. The article notes that vaccination seems to be more effective at preventing salmonella so the eggs in Europe that are not stored in a refrigerator could actually be safer than those in the US that are!

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