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In the UK eggs must not be washed and are kept at room temperature. In the US eggs must be washed and refrigerated. Why are there different regulations?

UK laws make it illegal for egg producers to wash their eggs or clean them in any way.

Why? It’s done to make sure that egg producers have a clear interest in ensuring the conditions their eggs laying chickens are kept in are the best possible. They can’t afford to have chickens wallowing around in filth, or chicken poo as it’ll get on the eggs and they can do nothing that will remove it. The egg contains a film on the outside to protect its contents. That film is destroyed by washing and its removal is more likely to result in contamination.

If you need to wash eggs then your chickens haven’t been kept in clean and tidy surroundings. If you don’t look after your chickens then how can you be trusted to keep the egg washing water clean?

Go to a UK supermarket and you won’t find the eggs in a fridge or chiller - they’re on an ordinary shelf at shop temperature. There’s a reason for that - it stops any risk of moisture getting on the egg and damaging that protective covering - like taking the eggs from a cold fridge to a warm car would do (condensation).

About 90% of the UK’s eggs are from chickens that have been innoculated against salmonella. Doesn’t matter what you do about the eggs after they’re laid - if the chicken has salmonella then there’s a good chance the eggs will have it too. The eggs that are from “safe” chickens have a stylised red lion stamped on them.

An egg from my fridge that shows it’s a UK produced egg, the lion mark, producer and packing details and best before date.

The 10% that aren’t lion marked are sold by farms direct and probably account for all of the UK’s egg-origin human salmonella cases which are just short of 600 a year. Scaled up to the US in terms of population about 3000 cases of egg-origin salmonella would be expected in the US if it dealt with eggs the same way we did in the UK. But, you don’t and the number of egg-origin cases of salmonella in the US is about 142,000 a year. (That’s not a misprint).

I think we’ve got it right.

Numbers of cases;

Since originally writing this, one contributor queried the source of my number of 142,000 US egg salmonella cases. I’ve been conservative in my estimate as the National Institutes of Health in the US estimates that they could likely be much higher. If you look at the the preamble to the following report, it could run into hundreds of thousands, but using stats this study pitches the figure at 182,000. Estimate of Illnesses from Salmonella Enteritidis in Eggs, United States, 2000 I’m quite confident of my 142,000 figure as being “representative”.

In the UK salmonella is a reportable disease and Public Health Inspectors are involved in identifying cases. The latest report that I can find is; https://assets.publishing.servic... Page 11 Table 6, of that report identifies the numbers of salmonella cases that are egg related in 2016 and that’s about 408. To that figure have to be added cases from Scotland and Northern Ireland. Although it’s reasonable to say the figures of UK egg related cases are likely to be far fewer than 600, I’ve stuck to 600 to be on the safe side.

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