Can you eat expired eggs?

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Eggs are a staple food in households around the world.

They are a nutritious and affordable source of protein. Plus, they cook a quick meal any time of the day, so it’s no wonder people like to keep eggs on hand.

However, if you’ve ever left a box of eggs in the fridge for a few weeks, you might have wondered if they are still safe to eat.

Egg cartons often have a date imprinted on them, such as an expiration or best before date. These dates make it easier to know the age of the eggs.

But if you store them properly, eggs can actually last well past their expiration date and still be safe to eat.

So the short answer is yes, it can be safe to eat expired eggs.

On the other hand, eggs that have been contaminated or stored improperly can spoil and contain harmful bacteria. So, it is important to know the difference between expired but safe eggs and bad eggs.

This article explains when it’s safe to eat expired eggs and how to store your eggs for maximum freshness.

Shell eggs that have been washed and stored in the refrigerator stay fresh for an average of 3-5 weeks (1).

Compared to other perishable proteins, eggs actually have a significantly longer shelf life. Once opened, most milk and meats will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 1 week (1).

Still, when buying eggs from the store, it can be difficult to know how long they’ve been on the shelf and how long they’ll stay fresh after you bring them home.

This is where the date labels printed on the egg cartons come in handy. Date labels help you determine how long your eggs will stay fresh and safe to eat.

Eggs are often labeled with the date they were processed and packaged or an expiration date, although some eggs may not have a date label, depending on the source and regulations in your area.

Here are some of the most common date labels on egg cartons in the United States (2):

  • Better by. The eggs will be of optimal quality and flavor if you eat them before this date, which is set by the manufacturer. As long as the eggs do not show signs of spoilage, they can still be sold and are considered safe to eat after this date.
  • Sell ​​by. This date cannot be later than 30 days after the date of packaging of the eggs. By the expiration date, the eggs can be about 4 weeks old.
  • EXP. Short for “expiration”, this is another way of labeling a “sell before” date.
  • Date of packaging. This notes the day the eggs were processed and packed in the carton. It displays as a three-digit number between 1 and 365. This method numbers the days of the year consecutively, so January 1 is 001, January 2 is 002, December 31 is 365, And so on.

With proper storage, eggs typically stay fresh 3-5 weeks from the date of packaging – the date they were collected, cleaned, and stored in the refrigerator.

After 5 weeks, your eggs may start to lose their freshness. They might lose their flavor and color, and the texture might even be somewhat altered. Over the weeks, the eggs will continue to decrease in quality even if you refrigerate them.

Yet, as long as they remain free from contamination with bacteria or mold, they can still be safely consumed for days or weeks longer.

summary

Eggs have an average shelf life of 3 to 5 weeks. With proper storage, most eggs are still safe to eat after 5 weeks, although their quality and freshness will likely start to decline.

Eggs are a notoriously high risk food for the growth of Salmonella, a type of bacteria that lives in and affects the digestive tract of animals and humans (6, 7, 8).

Salmonella Bacteria are one of the most common causes of foodborne illness, causing side effects like fever, stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea (4).

It is possible that Salmonella may be present inside or outside the eggs when you buy them. The bacteria could also continue to multiply even when the eggs are in the refrigerator.

This means that even if you do everything right when it comes to keeping eggs fresh, there may still be a small chance that you will get sick. Salmonella.

The best way to avoid contracting a foodborne illness from a contaminated egg is to always cook your eggs to a minimum internal temperature of 160 ° F (71 ° C) (3, 7, 9).

No kitchen thermometer handy? Don’t worry, just be sure to cook your eggs until the yolks are firm and the whites are no longer runny or translucent.

Who should avoid expired eggs?

Some groups of people may be more likely than others to get sick from eggs.

Because young children, the elderly, and people with persistent illnesses are at a higher risk of contracting Salmonella, it may be best for them to completely avoid expired, spoiled, and raw eggs (3, 4).

Most people recover from Salmonella infections, and their symptoms go away after just a few days. However, in high-risk populations, the disease is of greater concern because it can lead to life-threatening complications that require hospitalization.

summary

Eggs that are expired but not spoiled can still be perfectly good to eat. However, eating old eggs that have been damaged or contaminated puts you at risk of contracting the foodborne bacteria. Salmonella.

Just because an egg is past the date on its box doesn’t mean it has gone bad.

Nevertheless, the expiration date is a handy tool that you can use to determine if the eggs have spoiled.

If the eggs are still a few days or weeks past the expiration date and you stored them safely in the refrigerator, there’s a good chance they haven’t gone bad, although they may have started to decline in quality.

If the eggs have passed the expiration date on the box, you will likely need to evaluate them further before deciding if they are still safe to consume.

Here are some easy ways to tell if the eggs have spoiled:

  • Feel them. Cooked or raw, a spoiled egg will likely give off a strong, foul odor. In some cases, you may be able to smell a rotten egg through its shell, but the smell will certainly be noticeable once you open the egg.
  • Look at them, inside and out. An egg that is safe to eat should not have cracks or mud on its shell, signs of mold, or obvious discoloration of the yolk or white.
  • Go with your instincts. As the saying goes, “When in doubt, throw it out”. If a hunch tells you that your eggs have started to spoil, it’s best not to eat them.

summary

Some signs that the eggs have spoiled are a strong or foul odor coming from inside or outside, mud or mold growing on the shell, and discolored whites or yolks.

While eggs don’t last forever, proper cleaning and storage can keep them safe and fresh for a surprisingly long time. These methods also help prevent the growth of bacteria (ten).

Here are some things to consider when storing eggs for safety and long shelf life:

1. Know if your eggs are washed

Many people keep their eggs in the refrigerator, although you may have also heard that farm-fresh eggs can be kept right on your counter.

It is true that eggs can be stored safely on the countertop for a short time, as long as they are not washed and kept at a stable room temperature.

Once an egg has been washed, it is more likely to transfer bacteria like Salmonella from the outside of the hull to the inside (ten, 11, 12, 13).

Thus, only eggs that have not been washed can be safely stored on the countertop.

Even so, higher temperatures and temperature fluctuations can cause eggs to spoil and spoil earlier than eggs kept in the refrigerator (3, 7, 13, 14).

2. Store your eggs in the refrigerator

The best way to store eggs is in a refrigerator set at around 40 ° F (4 to 5 ° C). Experts do not recommend freezing eggs that are in the shell because the contents inside are likely to expand and damage the shell (1).

A few lab studies also suggest that cooler temperatures and refrigeration significantly reduce the risk of an egg being contaminated with Salmonella (11, 15, 16).

For this reason, agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States recommend staying completely away from unrefrigerated eggs (4).

If you can, avoid keeping eggs in the refrigerator door and instead place them on a shelf in the main refrigerator area. The door is often the hottest place because it is most often exposed to the open air.

While your eggs are in the refrigerator, do not place anything heavy on them that could damage the shells and keep them away from raw meat to prevent the spread of bacteria.

Scientists continue to explore new ways to keep eggs free of Salmonella and other bacteria, such as coating eggs in plant biofilms that help keep bacteria out (17, 18).

However, perhaps the best way to store eggs for safety and freshness is to simply keep them in the refrigerator.

3. Choose pasteurized eggs if you are more at risk.

During processing, pasteurized eggs are heated in enough hot water to kill bacteria on the outside of the shell without cooking the egg inside. Therefore, they may be less likely to contain Salmonella or other bacteria.

Pasteurized eggs are a good choice for those at higher risk (7).

Especially if you are sick, pregnant, a child, or an elderly person with a weakened immune system, sticking to pasteurized eggs is a good idea to avoid contracting a foodborne illness (6).

Pasteurized eggs are also useful in recipes that call for raw eggs, such as Caesar dressing or hollandaise sauce (4).

summary

It is best to store eggs on a shelf in the refrigerator, preferably away from the door, and keep them away from raw meat.

One of the many benefits of eggs is that they last a long time.

By storing them in the refrigerator, you can keep your eggs healthy and fresh for several weeks.

Still, eggs can spoil under certain conditions, and any egg – refrigerated or not – has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella, so it is best to cook your eggs well before eating them.


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