Why are American Eggs Banned in Europe?
Throughout the United States, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) sets down reporting requirements on how food items should be produced and analyzed to improve the nutritional quality. On the other hand, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established best food consumption practices to minimize health problems. At the same time, USDA has established guidelines on how retail eggs should be collected, processed, and stored to make sure eggs remain safe for public consumption.
The United Kingdom has its own rules, but their restrictions are quite contrary to those in the United States that make it illegal for eggs produced in the United Kingdom to be sold in the United States. Those produced in the United States are to be sold in the United Kingdom.
Anyhow, if guidelines in both the cases are made for food safety and public interest, why are they contrasting to one another? Which one of them is the right practice? Or maybe both of them are equally good?
Here, in the case of American eggs, USDA requires its egg producers to properly wash and sanitize their eggs before reaching the customers to remove any dirt and feces on the outside of the eggs. These toxins are bacterial and may represent a danger to food safety when they enter the kitchen environment. For example, one may crack open an egg then proceed to prepare a sandwich with those bacterial riddled hands. Also, eggshells are porous, there is a possibility of microbes leaking inside the egg.
As per regulations, eggs are washed with warm water at least 20°F warmer than the internal temperature of the eggs and at a minimum of 90°F. A detergent that won’t impart any foreign odors to the eggs is also used. Just after washing, the eggs are cleaned with a hot water spray carrying a chemical sanitizer to thoroughly clean bacteria. Then they’re dried to remove excess moisture. Each step of this process is scientifically designed and must be carried out with extra caution. Alternatively, this procedure could lead to more danger than good.
For example, drying is more crucial because a dry eggshell acts as a barrier to bacterial intrusion while the presence of moisture makes the shell more permeable exposing it to a pathogen. Moreover, moisture itself acts as a medium for bacterial growth and water provides an excellent vehicle for a pathogen such as a salmonella.
The temperature of warm washing water must be regulated carefully. Otherwise, water colder than eggs could cause the contents of the eggs to contract, sucking polluted water in through the shell. The result may get worse if the facility is not careful enough to regularly change the washing water and eggs are left to sit in the dirty bath.
With such a high risk of bacteria, if cleaned improperly, the UK and almost all of the world except the US believes that eggs should not be washed or cleaned before they are sold to consumers. As far as dirty eggs are concerned, European egg marketing law encourages good husbandry on farms. Because the eggs can’t be cleaned or washed, it’s in the farmer’s best interests to produce the cleanest eggs possible as no one is going to buy their eggs if they are dirty. This may sound too convincing to you but there is more to it. An egg carries a thin layer of coating of its outer surface called a Cuticle. These eggs naturally protect eggs from almost all contamination and also keeps the eggs fresh for a longer period. Washing eggs may damage most of this protective layer. Also, make them vulnerable to contamination from other pathogens and micro-organisms.
In the absence of washing, an egg is capable of protecting itself naturally and if care is taken while handling eggs, the contamination of the kitchen environment can also be eliminated. The UK, thus believes that little care is better than huge risk and the cost of washing eggs.
Another thing that makes American eggs and British eggs different is how they are stored. In the UK and almost everywhere in Europe, you can see eggs sitting on unrefrigerated shelves of supermarkets.
Well, European rules stipulate that eggs should not, in general, be chilled before being sold to the final consumer. Cold eggs when left outside at room temperature during the period between the grocery stores to the buyer’s home, may sweat and form moisture on the surface, making it easier for the bacteria to grow and possibly ingress into the eggs.
The American system, on the other hand, instructs its seller to refrigerate eggs under 40°F to decrease the risk of salmonella. Salmonella is not a big problem in the UK because European farmers have been vaccinating their hens against salmonella sie the 1990s and got good results.
While vaccination in the US is not a common practice. Americans and British eggs taste significantly different because of the difference in how they are processed and stored. Consequently, these are some main reason why are American Eggs Banned in Europe…