How long can eggs be unrefrigerated before becoming unsafe to eat?

  • A friend of mine accidentally left a carton of eggs on her counter, unrefrigerated, for three days. The eggs had been previously refrigerated both at the store and at home. Now she's planning to do some more cooking which requires eggs, and is wondering if it's still safe to use them for baking. I believe she is planning on baking cookies with them, so they would be baked at fairly high temperatures for probably at least 10 minutes. Would this be safe, or are eggs left unrefrigerated for that long not safe for consumption?

    This is a North American issue. In most countries of the world eggs are not washed, or if they are, they are not washed at a hot temperature, so their exterior membrane is intact and they do not need to be chilled. Refer to your local government health guidelines for your country, and make a call on that

    @TFD: Please stop spreading this misinformation. This has already been discussed and the various global food agencies and regulations do not agree with you. If you think that the answer to this question varies by country, then **answer** it - **with references** - so that people have a chance to properly critique and respond to it.

    @Aaronut I gave references to EU codes last time, you ignored then, or missed the paragraph about their washing technique not damaging the cuticle etc? Other posts on SA about eggs have shown large consensus on eggs, village market or supermarket, not being chilled. This matches my experiences in other parts of the world EU, Asia, China, Russia, Oceania

    @TFD: I seem to recall that **I** gave those references last time and that you had nothing to add except for some minor quibble. It's not particularly germane to this question how often you saw unrefrigerated eggs in other parts of the world (especially in parts where refrigeration itself is not always readily available), and I have no idea what you mean about "consensus on eggs... not being chilled". Eggs last longer in the refrigerator, washed or not. The *safety* of that is not a question of "yes" or "no", it is a question of *how long*.

  • Cascabel

    Cascabel Correct answer

    9 years ago

    The USDA, generally on the very safe but a bit paranoid end of the spectrum, says:

    After eggs are refrigerated, they need to stay that way. A cold egg left out at room temperature can sweat, facilitating the movement of bacteria into the egg and increasing the growth of bacteria. Refrigerated eggs should not be left out more than 2 hours.

    (They also say some very sad things about Easter egg hunts.)

    So if you're being strict, three days would be way too long. In reality, you'd probably be okay. The chances of getting salmonella are definitely higher, but are presumably still small (though I can't say exactly how small, of course). Personally, given the price of a dozen eggs, I'd probably play it safe.

    Another answer mentions that in the UK eggs are stored at room temperature. That's true in quite a lot of places, but I'm guessing that they've avoided the large temperature swing issue mentioned by the FDA, so if your friend's eggs were refrigerated in the store, the situation's not quite the same as in the UK.

    People used to preserve eggs by dipping them in water glass solution to "block the pores". I suppose if the water glass gets in, the bugs might, too.

    The difference between the UK and the US is that UK eggs aren't washed in disinfectant (illegal in the UK) and US eggs are (illegal not to in the US). Since this damages the shells, UK eggs will keep much longer than US eggs.

    Also, US hens aren't normally vaccinated, UK hens always would be.

    Wouldn’t the salmonella die from baking in the oven?

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