Why Americans Refrigerate Eggs and Europeans Don’t

Find out which foods can safely migrate from your fridge to your counter.

July 15, 2014— -- intro: Why is it that European eggs are stored on supermarket shelves while American eggs chill in the cold section?

The difference, experts say, has to do with the egg production process.

Unlike European eggs, American eggs are washed and sprayed with a sanitizer immediately after collection, then placed into a cooler. Bringing the eggs back to room temperature would increase the chance of bacterial growth, according to the USDA's egg grading manual. Bottom line: we have to refrigerate our eggs because our egg distributors do.

But even eggs that are clean on the surface can harbor unsafe bacteria, said Marianne Gravely, a technical expert with USDA’s food safety hotline.

“Up until about 20 years ago, we thought inside the egg was safe. But then we discovered that the chicken can pass salmonella infection through its ovaries to the egg,” she said, explaining that refrigerating eggs is an easy safeguard against bacteria wherever you live. Cooking eggs thoroughly also reduces the risk of foodborne illness, according to the USDA.

Though American eggs need to chill, these four foods are probably taking up space in your fridge when they can be stored safely on the counter.

Food Safety Tweet Chat Today at 1 PM, ET

quicklist: 1

category: Foods that Don't Need Refrigeration

title: Butter


text: Some people prefer to keep butter at room temperature because it spreads more easily. Gravely said that’s OK, though it might spoil more quickly.

There are two types of foodborne bacteria: those that cause illness and those that spoil food but don’t make you sick. Butter is more prone to the spoiling variety, Gravely said. She recommends keeping half a stick out on the counter and storing the rest in the fridge.

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quicklist: 2

category: Foods that Don't Need Refrigeration

title: Whole Grain Flours


text: Processed white flour doesn’t spoil at room temperature, Gravely said. Whole grain flours, on the other hand, do spoil because they contain more oil, she said.

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quicklist: 3

category: Foods that Don't Need Refrigeration

title: Tomatoes


text: Keeping tomatoes out of the fridge is not only safe, it makes them tastier, too.

French researchers recently found that the tomato’s flavor results from a complex mix of sugars acids and aroma-producing compounds called volatiles. Chilling tomatoes causes volatiles to breakdown and damages the texture, rendering the fruit flavorless and pulpy.

Most fruits and veggies are perfectly safe to eat when left at room temperature, Gravely said.

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quicklist: 4

category: Foods that Don't Need Refrigeration

title: Condiments


text: Refrigerating your mustard and ketchup will prevent them from going rancid for longer, but leaving them out won't put you at risk for foodborne illness, Gravely said.

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quicklist: 5

category: Foods that Don't Need Refrigeration

title: Food Safety Tweet Chat Today at 1 PM, ETurl:

text: Questions about food safety? The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline can personally answer them for you. And you can find out more about food safety by joining our ABC Health tweet chat today at 1 p.m., ET.

Joining the chat is simple. Find out more here.