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Eggs in the UK (and most if not all of Europe) are sold at ambient temperature. This question is specifically in this context.

When putting a box of eggs away in the cupboard yesterday I noticed that they were supposed to be refrigerated. This makes no sense as they're sold at room temperature with a single date given as "best before/display until", i.e. they could be kept at room temperature in the shop until the only date given (which was about 10 days after I bought them). In practice, in a cupboard, they are fine several weeks longer than this. I tend to buy rather large boxes as I like to have enough to make a large omelette if I want a quick dinner; they also work out cheaper that way. The previous box, from a different supermarket, had similar text. I don't plan to keep them in the fridge, but if there's a good reason, I'll have to start buying smaller boxes.

So:

  • Has this been going on for years without me noticing?
  • Why can eggs be kept for day if not weeks in a shop at room temperature but not in a house?
  • Proving or disproving your suspicion is a core food-safety question, So I would suggest you tag it like that. – rackandboneman Apr 23 '18 at 8:56
  • @rackandboneman. No, but I'll reword the comment to make it less of a suspicion and more of a logical conclusion. – Chris H Apr 23 '18 at 9:34
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    I have deliberately not tagged it as food-safety. This can't logically be a safety issue as room temperature storage in the shop is acceptable, and for the same amopunt of time. – Chris H Apr 23 '18 at 9:35
  • The room temperature in the area where the eggs are kept might be controlled to be within certain limits at the store - also, they might be stored in refrigeration during closed hours. – rackandboneman Apr 23 '18 at 11:34
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    @rackandboneman Condensation (Wikipedia link) effectively means that once chilled they must stay chilled. – Chris H Apr 23 '18 at 12:08
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Storing eggs in the fridge avoids temperature fluctuations, and ensures they are kept below 20°C.

I am happy to report that there exists the British Egg Information Service, who state:

For optimum freshness and food safety, eggs should be kept at a constant temperature below 20°C. To avoid the typical temperature fluctuations in a domestic kitchen, we recommend that eggs are stored in their box in the fridge.

As for supermarkets storing eggs at room temperature:

Most modern supermarkets are kept below 20°C so it is not necessary for retailers to store them in a fridge. This also prevents significant temperature fluctuations (for example eggs being moved from a fridge to a hot car after purchase).

Indeed, the British Lion code of practice - a scheme for ensuring the safety of eggs with the Lion mark in the UK - recommends that retailers store eggs at a consistent temperature below 20°C. It also looks like eggs won't usually be in the shop very long, as they say the display cabinets should ideally be cleared completely twice a week.

Personally, I've always thought that keeping eggs in the cupboard is fine but that they last longer if you put them in the fridge. Remember that passing the best before date only means that flavour and texture might not be as good; food can be past its absolute best but still be acceptable.


It's worth pointing out that eggs really must be kept in the fridge in some countries, for example the US. See the answer by Cos Callis.

  • A good find, thank you. Given that I keep my kitchen quite cool, this can be interpreted as "it might be a good idea to put them in the fridge in and after a heatwave". And I barely believe in best before dates anyway – Chris H Apr 25 '18 at 6:04
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    @ChrisH Yeah, so long as the kitchen is consistently the same level of cool looks like you're good. – BauerPower Apr 25 '18 at 18:05
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    This is a good answer but you should know that regardless of temperature fluctuation a cooled egg will have firmer protein for longer than a room temp egg. For many egg applications this is unimportant but for foams like meringue, angel food cake, or souffle, a fresh egg is better and keeping them in the fridge will give you a few extra days. – Sobachatina Apr 25 '18 at 20:20
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    Poached eggs will also feather out less. – Sobachatina Apr 25 '18 at 20:21
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I have several friends who raise chickens, mostly for the eggs, and asked this same question myself recently. Here is what I found: It all has to do with salmonella and two very different approaches to combating the disease.

In the US eggs are chemically washed in "commercial" egg operations to remove the bacteria before transport. The 'washing' also compromises the shell, to the point where refrigeration is considered appropriate to extend the useful life of the eggs. As this practice is not required for "small" "non-commercial" operations the eggs we get from our friends don't "require" refrigeration (but usually get it all the same).

The European approach has been to leave the egg shells unwashed, and therefore uncompromised, such that they are perfectly safe 'on the shelf'. The intact shell (or 'unwashed') shell is considered sufficiently safe to prevent the salmonella bacteria from entering the egg...and therefore the food.

For support and addition documentation see:

As I assume that the UK is following the "European" practice for sending eggs to market 'unwashed' I'm guessing the "at home refrigerate" label was added by an overactive risk aversion attorney.

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    That's a helpful explanation of the difference between approaches, but the only bit that's actually relevant to this question is a guess, and would have to be common to two rival chains. – Chris H Apr 23 '18 at 16:17
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    There is a good and rational reason to do A, but not B and there is a good and rational reason to do B, but not A. There is no rational reason to do A and B. Instructions say "Do A and B"... therefore a lawyer is involved. – Cos Callis Apr 23 '18 at 18:08
  • That's certainly a logical train of reasoning, especially as "store in a cool dry place" is common on other foods and a maximum temperature is common on everyday medicines, meaning that there shouldn't be any issue with warm room temperatures – Chris H Apr 23 '18 at 18:45
  • I agree with your answer on the basis of food safety- however eggs deteriorate in quality significantly more slowly when cooled. Therefore- even if safe to sell at room temperature it is logical to advise to keep them in the fridge at home. – Sobachatina Apr 25 '18 at 20:18

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