Eggs: Do they need to be kept in the fridge?

·5-min read
The cupboard or fridge eggs storage debate has been rumbling on for years. (Getty Images)
The debate about where to store eggs has been rumbling on for years. (Getty Images)

There has been many a heated debate about where to put your eggs (aside from not in one basket, of course).

The world falls roughly into two camps: those who keep their eggs in the fridge and those who think room temperature is best. Each group believes they are right and views the rival collective as, er, a bit cracked *groans*.

Years ago, most of our condiments, including our eggs, were kept in the kitchen cupboard, and while some have opted to to move them into the fridge, recent research by Hammonds Kitchens reveals six in 10 Brits still store theirs on their worktops.

Why then do some believe eggs, which have sat happily on our kitchen counters for so many years, should have to make the move into the cold?

Some eggs-perts *groans again* argue eggs should be kept in the fridge to avoid incidence of food poisoning, like salmonella.

Indeed, The British Egg Information Service says eggs should be stored at a constant temperature below 20°C to maintain freshness and quality.

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So in domestic kitchens the best place to keep them is in the fridge, hence the advice on egg packs and fridges actually coming with those little plastic egg holders in them.

"For freshness and safety, eggs should be stored at a constant temperature below 20°C; which is why the fridge is the best place to store eggs at home," explains Jenna Brown, environmental health officer and founder of the Food Safety Mum.

"If left out on the counter, it is likely your eggs will be stored at a temperature higher than 20°C and be subject to temperature fluctuations (from general ambient temperatures thanks to central heating - and Summer weather - to the steam created when cooking)."

Despite there being a low risk of salmonella, some experts still recommend eggs are kept in the fridge. (Getty Images)
Despite there being a low risk of salmonella, some experts still recommend eggs are kept in the fridge. (Getty Images)

Brown says that for safety reasons it is important that temperature changes are avoided during egg storage.

"This can lead to condensation on the surface; which can increase the penetration of salmonella from the outside of the shell into the egg," she says.

"If salmonella is present in the egg, it is also unable to multiply in the low fridge temperature."

This fridge egg storage advice is particularly relevant when the mercury rises, according to Dr Georgios Efthimiou, lecturer in microbiology at Hull University.

"Eggs definitely have to stay away from direct sunlight or hot weather," he explains.

"In warmer countries, where room temperature can reach 25-35ºC, refrigerating eggs is highly recommended, as bacteria like salmonella can easily grow under such temperatures."

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Fridge egg storage sceptics could understandably question why, if storing eggs in the fridge is important safety wise, aren't they refrigerated in the supermarket?

"The temperature inside a modern supermarket never changes, and is kept below 20°C so refrigerating eggs is not necessary in these environments," explains Brown.

"Not refrigerating eggs in the supermarket also helps to avoid temperature fluctuations when transporting eggs from the supermarket home."

Watch: Runny eggs safe for pregnant women and the elderly to eat, says food safety watchdog

But not all eggs-perts (sorry, sorry!) agree they need to be kept in the fridge.

Dr Martin Goldberg, a lecturer in microbiology at Nottingham Trent University argues that keeping eggs in the fridge does not alter the risk of salmonella.

“There is no need to keep eggs in the fridge as the shell and membranes act as a barrier to bacteria,” he previously told Yahoo Life UK.

“When we find salmonella in eggs, it is because they get in during formation of the eggs in the chickens’ oviducts.”

And some foodies actively discourage people from keeping eggs in the refrigerator, arguing that eggshells are porous so can absorb the flavours of other foods in the fridge.

To avoid this the British Egg Information Service suggests keeping eggs in their original box in the fridge, which will ensure any odours from surrounding foods are shut out.

According to the British Egg Industry Council all eggs that carry the British Lion mark have been produced under the stringent requirements of the British Lion Code of Practice which ensures the highest standards of food safety. This means they carry a very low risk of salmonella contamination.

When it comes to reducing the risk of food poisoning, the British Egg Information Service advises against eating eggs that are dirty, cracked or broken and recommend washing your hands before and after handling eggs.

They also suggest people avoid reusing leftover egg dishes.

Six in ten Brits store their eggs on their countertop. (Getty Images)
Six in 10 Brits store their eggs on their countertop. (Getty Images)

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And Brown has some other safety advice for lovers of runny eggs.

"Choosing eggs which are lion stamped or fall under the ‘laid in Britain’ assurance scheme will help make sure that the risk of salmonella from undercooked eggs is low; particularly important if you fall into a vulnerable group (such as pregnant ladies, babies & young children, the elderly or immunocompromised)," she says.

In terms of how long eggs can be stored for, Brown says they can be eaten safely up until their best before end (BBE) date.

"The Food Standards Agency advises that whilst they are safe to eat a couple of days past this date, they should be used in cooking or baking to ensure they are cooked thoroughly after their BBE date," she adds.

And if you are using your eggs in baking you should take them out of the fridge around 30 minutes before to allow them to slowly come up to room temperature before using.

To check for ‘freshness’, Brown suggests using the egg float test; but stresses this shouldn’t be used to indicate egg safety.

"As an egg ages, the air pocket inside grows larger so and old egg should float, whereas a fresh egg should sink," she explains.

So, basically, while most experts suggest keeping your eggs in the fridge, there is something of a divide on the egg storage dilemma, but if you keep them cool, clean and cook them well, they should be just eggs-cellent (last one we promise!).

Watch: Food storage tips