Egg Storage and Handling

Q: Can I freeze raw eggs?

A: Freezing is an option if you have more eggs on hand then you can use. Remove eggs from their shells, beat until just blended, and place in a sealed container. Eggs can be frozen for up to one year. To use frozen eggs, properly thaw them in the refrigerator or under running cold water. Never thaw eggs on the counter as this may promote the growth of harmful bacteria! Once thawed cook eggs thoroughly.

Q: Why should eggs be refrigerated?

A: In the United States, it’s more than a food safety recommendation that eggs be refrigerated – it’s the law. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) determined that the best way to fight salmonella contamination is by making sure eggs are clean before they reach consumers. So, on commercial egg farms (those that have 3,000 hens or more) it is required that eggs are thoroughly washed and immediately refrigerated before they leave the farm. The washing process removes any contaminants, such as manure, with which the eggs may have come in contact. Once eggs have been refrigerated, it is critical they remain that way. A cool egg at room temperature can sweat, facilitating the growth of bacteria that could enter the egg through its porous shell. Refrigerated eggs should not be left out more than two hours.

Q: Is it safe to keep used egg shells in the carton?

A: No, you should never put egg shells back in the carton after cracking them if there are still intact eggs left in the carton. Bacteria has the potential to be on the outside, as well as the inside of an egg, and mixing cracked eggs with intact eggs greatly increases the risk of bacteria transfer by hands, utensils, air, etc. We would also recommend never reusing egg cartons as they can be a reservoir for bacteria. Throw away egg cartons as soon as the eggs are all used.

Q: Is it safe to reuse egg cartons?

A: USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is clear on the subject, saying items such as foam meat trays, convenience food dishes and egg cartons should be considered one-time-use packaging. Commercial egg farmers who follow the FDA’s Egg Safety Rule wash and sanitize eggs before packing them in clean, new cartons, eliminating bacteria that may have been present on the shell. But bacteria could creep back into the picture as eggs are handled at stores and in homes. It’s a good idea to discard used egg cartons and not reuse them. Recycle them, if you can.

Egg shells should never be put back in the carton after cracking them if there are still intact eggs left in the carton. Bacteria has the potential to be on the outside, as well as the inside of an egg, and mixing cracked eggs with intact eggs greatly increases the risk of bacteria transfer by hands, utensils, air, etc.

Q: What safe handling instructions are on egg cartons?

A: FDA requires all cartons of raw, shell eggs not treated to destroy Salmonella carry the following statement:

SAFE HANDLING INSTRUCTIONS: To prevent illness from bacteria: Keep eggs refrigerated, cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook foods containing eggs thoroughly.

Q: What is grading of eggs, and is it mandatory?

A: Grading is an indication of quality and is voluntary, while inspection (for wholesomeness and safety) is mandatory. Companies that choose to have their eggs graded pay for this service from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA grade shield on the carton means the eggs were graded for quality and checked for weight (size) under the supervision of a trained USDA grader. Compliance with quality standards, grades, and weights is monitored by USDA. State agencies monitor egg packers who do not use the USDA grading service, and those cartons will bear a term such as “Grade A” without the USDA shield.

Q: How are eggs transported safely to stores?

A: Vehicles transporting food must be dedicated to only transport food, per federal law, which requires:

  • Shell eggs packed for consumers be stored and transported under refrigeration at an ambient (surrounding) air temperature not to exceed 45° F;

  • All packed shell eggs be labeled with a statement that refrigeration is required; and

  • Any shell eggs imported into the United States and packed for consumer use are to include a certification that they have been stored and transported at an ambient temperature of no greater than 45° F.

Q: Should you wash eggs after purchasing in a grocery store?

A: No, it’s not necessary or recommended to wash eggs that have a USDA grade shield or mark on the carton. In fact, washing these eggs may actually increase the risk of contamination because the wash water can be “sucked” into the egg through the pores in the shell. When the chicken lays the egg, a protective coating is put on the outside by the hen. At the egg processing plant, government regulations require that USDA-graded eggs be carefully washed and sanitized before being packed.

Q: What points should you consider when buying eggs?

A: When purchasing commercially-produced eggs (those coming from farms with 3,000 or more hens):

  • Always purchase eggs from a refrigerated case.

  • Choose eggs with clean, uncracked shells.

  • Don’t buy out-of-date eggs.

  • Look for the USDA grade shield or mark. Graded eggs must meet standards for quality and size.

  • Choose the size most useful and economical for your lifestyle.

  • When purchasing egg products or substitutes, look for containers that are tightly sealed and unopened.

  • Click here to learn what different labels, like UEP Certified or cage-free, indicate.

Q: What’s the best way to store eggs?

A: The best way to store eggs is to keep them in their carton, so you can check the Julian date (the date the eggs were packed) or expiration date. The carton should be placed in the coldest part of the refrigerator at 45 °F or lower – not in the door, where temperatures may fluctuate when it is opened and closed. Refrigerated eggs should not be left out more than two hours.

Q: I just realized I left the egg carton on the kitchen counter overnight. Are the eggs safe to use?

A: No, after eggs are refrigerated, it is important they stay that way. Maintaining a consistent, cool temperature is critical to safety. A cold egg left out at room temperature can sweat, facilitating bacteria growth. Refrigerated eggs should not be left out more than two hours before re-refrigeration.

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