Packed with plenty of protein, vitamins, and minerals, eggs are a healthy, filling, and inexpensive addition to any diet. But experts warn that storing them improperly can lead not only to spoilage, but may make you susceptible to serious illness. Eating eggs that have quietly gone bad can lead to food poisoning and other foodborne maladies, including Salmonella poisoning. That’s why experts are sounding the alarm about a common mistake people make with their egg storage. Read on to find out which food storage habit could be upping your chances of spoilage, and where to safely store your eggs instead.
Many refrigerators have a handy, built-in compartment for eggs located on the fridge door, but experts say that storing your eggs there would be a mistake. That’s because the door is the area of your fridge most susceptible to temperature changes, so keeping eggs there would make them more vulnerable to spoilage. Instead, experts say you should keep your eggs in the main body of the fridge, toward the back of the middle shelf. This will provide the most even temperature, allowing them to stay fresh for a longer period of time.
Even if you store your eggs in the proper location inside your fridge, experts say that you should still minimize the number of times you open your fridge door. Every time you open your fridge, the temperature inside will drop, Deana R. Jones, PhD, a research food technologist at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Egg Safety and Quality Research Unit told Food Network. To limit temperature fluctuations and minimize the risk of spoilage, Jones recommends thinking ahead of time about what you need from the fridge to shorten your time spent with the door open.
Storing your eggs in their original carton is another simple way to help lengthen their shelf life. “Cartons are designed to prevent breakage, as well as insulate the egg to reduce temperature changes,” explains Jones. This will also minimize your chances of consuming eggs that are past their “best by” date, which is typically printed not on the eggs themselves, but on their packaging.
You may have noticed that outside of the U.S. it’s common in many places to store eggs on the counter instead of the fridge. However, experts warn that this practice is unsafe here in America, due to the USDA’s requirement that eggs be washed before they reach grocery store shelves. While this procedure helps to remove Salmonella from the shells’ outer layers, it also removes a thin protective layer of the shell called the cuticle. Once the cuticle is removed, eggs must be kept below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, according to dairy company Organic Valley. Stored properly, a refrigerated egg can last for 45 days compared with unwashed, unrefrigerated eggs, which last just 21 days.
So, the next time you’re unpacking your grocery bags, remember: eggs are safest when they’ve been stored in their original container at consistently low temperatures. Anything else is risking a health hazard, or at the very least, wasted money on spoiled groceries.