Eggs are an indispensable ingredient to many cooks, most of whom know to store them in the refrigerator. Food safety regulations require that eggs be stored and transported at temperatures no higher than 45 degrees Fahrenheit, because the dangers of consuming unrefrigerated eggs are great. Even refrigerated eggs may go bad after a relatively short time.
The primary health risk associated with eggs comes from Salmonella bacteria. The bacteria can be found both on the outsides of eggshells and within the eggs themselves. Salmonella can cause a painful form of food poisoning called Salmonellosis. Cooking eggs completely usually destroys the bacteria, but undercooked eggs can pose a risk. The higher the level of salmonella on or within the egg, the greater the likelihood of poisoning.
While food safety regulations recommend egg storage at 45 degrees Fahrenheit or below, the Department of Health and Human Services actually goes further, recommending storage at below 40 F. At higher temperatures, any bacteria present in the egg could reproduce quickly, increasing the risk of bacterial contamination and food poisoning. Refrigerate eggs promptly after you bring them home from the store.
Even refrigerated eggs should be used promptly to reduce the risk of bacterial contamination. Raw eggs can be kept in the refrigerator for three to five weeks. Once the shell is removed, however, eggs are much more vulnerable to infection. Raw whites and yolks outside of the shells can be kept for only two to four days. After this point, the risk of contamination is much higher.
Cooked eggs have fewer risks than raw eggs, but proper storage and handling are still important. Refrigerate hardboiled eggs for up to a week, and keep other dishes containing eggs for two to four days. Eat egg dishes promptly after being cooked; two hours is the upper limit for leaving them at room temperature. Similarly, dishes containing eggs should not be kept warm for more than two hours.
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