Any time you’re cooking, storing or handling eggs, food safety should be your number one priority. Make sure your eggs stay safe and your family stays healthy with the answers to these five most commonly asked questions about egg safety and freshness.
1. Why do eggs need to be refrigerated?
Refrigeration reduces the possibility of bacteria growth and preserves egg quality. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the best way to fight salmonella contamination is to make sure eggs are clean before they ever even reach consumers. That means egg farmers are required to thoroughly wash their eggs and immediately refrigerate them – that’s the law! Egg washing removes contaminants, such as manure, with which the eggs may have come in contact. Once refrigerated, it’s important they remain that way; if a cool egg were to sweat, bacteria could enter the egg through its porous shell. When your eggs are home from the grocery store, they should not be left out for more than two hours.
2. What’s the best way to store eggs?
Eggs should be stored in the carton, in the coldest part of your refrigerator. The carton has the Julian date (the date the eggs were packed) and expiration date printed on it, which is important for knowing how long eggs are safe to eat. Placing the eggs in the coldest part of your refrigerator – 45 °F or lower – is key for keeping your eggs safe and fresh. Eggs kept in the door of a refrigerator experience fluctuating temperatures when the door is opened and closed, increasing the risk of contamination. Also, you should also never put eggshells back in the carton after cracking them; mixing those eggshells with uncracked eggs greatly raises the risk of bacteria transfer by your hands, utensils or air. We also recommend not reusing egg cartons, as they can also harbor bacteria.
3. How long are hard-boiled eggs safe to eat?
Hard-boiled eggs should be used within one week and should be placed in the refrigerator at 45°F or lower within two hours of cooking. Hard-boiled eggs spoil faster than fresh eggs because the natural protective coating on the egg is washed away during the boiling process, leaving pores in the shell open for bacteria to enter. See how to make the perfect easy-peel hard-boiled eggs—every time.
4. How long are eggs safe to eat after purchasing?
As long as eggs are kept refrigerated at 45 °F or lower, fresh eggs are safe to eat for 4-5 weeks beyond the carton’s Julian date. You can find this date on the short side of the carton, and it is represented by the consecutive number of days in a year, meaning January 1 is denoted by 001 and December 31 is 365. Cartons may also have an expiration date; this date is by when a store must sell the eggs but are still safe to eat.
5. Should eggs be washed after purchasing at the grocery store?
It is not necessary or recommended to wash eggs after buying them at the grocery store. Because egg farmers are required to carefully wash them before sending them to a store, additional washing of eggs may actually increase the risk of contamination through opened pores.
Have additional questions about egg safety, handling or preparation? Visit the Egg Safety Center for more information.