Why Are American Eggs Washed, When Egg Washing Is Banned In Much of Europe?

| January 9, 2016 | 1 Comment
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Why Are American Eggs Washed, When Egg Washing Is Banned In Much of Europe?

by Dr. Mercola,

When you have eggs from tens of thousands of chickens – or more — all under one roof, there’s a good chance they’re going to get feces and other contaminants on them. The US solution, rather than reducing the size of the flocks and ensuring better sanitation and access to the outdoors, is to wash the eggs. But this isn’t as innocuous as it sounds.

As the eggs are scrubbed, rinsed, dried, and spritzed with a chlorine mist, its protective cuticle may be compromised. This is a natural barrier that comes from the mother hen that lays the egg, and it acts as a shield against bacteria.

It even contains antimicrobial properties. US egg-washing strips this natural protectant from the egg, which may actually make it more likely to become contaminated. According to European Union (EU) guidelines:

“Such damage may favor trans-shell contamination with bacteria and moisture loss and thereby increase the risk to consumers, particularly if subsequent drying and storage conditions are not optimal.”

Industrial egg washing, by the way, is banned in much of Europe, not only because of potential damage to the eggs’ cuticles but also because it might allow for more “sloppy” egg-producing practices. The chief executive of Britain’s Egg Industry Council told Forbes:2

“In Europe, the understanding is that [prohibiting the washing and cleaning of eggs] actually encourages good husbandry on farms. It’s in the farmers’ best interests then to produce the cleanest eggs possible, as no one is going to buy their eggs if they’re dirty.”

Why Are American Eggs Washed, When Egg Washing Is Banned In Much of Europe?

Unwashed chicken eggs

In the US, of course, you’d have no way of knowing whether your bright-white grocery-store eggs were covered in filth before they arrived in your kitchen. Plus, about 10 percent of US eggs are treated with mineral or vegetable oil, basically as a way to “replace” the protective cuticle that’s just been washed off.

Unfortunately, since an eggshell contains approximately 7,500 pores or openings, once the natural cuticle has been removed what’s put ON your egg goes INTO your egg. Meaning, whatever the eggshell comes into contact with can cross over this semi-permeable membrane and end up in your scrambled eggs, from chlorine to mineral oil to dish soap — to salmonella.

Are US Organic Eggs Washed?

Organic flocks are typically much smaller than the massive commercial flocks (typically by an order or two of magnitude) where bacteria flourish, which is part of the reason why eggs from truly organic free-range chickens are FAR less likely to contain dangerous bacteria such as salmonella. Their nutrient content is also much higher than commercially raised eggs, which is most likely the result of the differences in diet between organic free ranging, pastured hens and commercially farmed hens.

As far as washing, detergents and other chemicals used for “wet cleaning” organic eggs must either be non-synthetic or among the allowed synthetics on the National List of allowed non-agricultural substances, which can include chlorine, ozone, hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, and others. Some farmers report rinsing eggs very quickly in water, just to dislodge any debris, and believe this is adequate. Others use a dry brushing process — no liquids at all — just a brush, sandpaper, or a loofah sponge.

Since most organic egg producers are typically interested in producing high-quality eggs, many of them—especially small, local farming operations—have implemented gentle washing methods that don’t compromise the cuticle. However, you certainly can’t tell by looking at them what type of washing process they may have gone through. The only way to know if your eggs have been washed or oiled (and using what agents) is to ask the pr

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Category: Food & Diet