Is it safe to eat eggs after the expiration date? (risks)
In this article, we will discuss whether it is safe to eat eggs after the expiration date, what are the risks of eating eggs after the expiration date, when should you not eat eggs after the expiration date and what can you do to reduce the risks of eating expired eggs.
In the United States, it is common to find a 3-digit code in the eggs, indicating the packing date, which refers to the date of the year. This means, if the egg was packed on January 1st, the code is 001. If packed on December 31st, the code is 365.
Is it safe to eat eggs after the expiration date?
Yes, it is safe to eat eggs after the expiration date, unless there are signs of spoilage in the eggs, such as an unpleasant odour or discolouration (3). Extra care should be taken to consume an egg with a cracked shell (6).
Eggs are perishable and many cases of food outbreaks occur due to the ingestion of contaminated eggs, especially uncooked eggs. On the other hand, spoiled eggs usually have off-odours and off-flavours and changes in consistency (4, 5).
How is the shelf life of eggs labelled?
Eggs are usually labelled with a “sell-by” date in the United States and should be consumed within 30 days following the indicated date (1). Eggs having dating labels with the terms “use-by” or “best-by” can be consumed within 45 days (3).
However, the egg dating varies, depending on the country. In the UK, the eggs have a best-before date and should be consumed within 28 days by the day of laying (2).
These rules are similar in the European Union, where eggs should be commercialised at least 21 days after being laid and consumed within 28 days (1).
In my experience, the temperature of storage is a determinant in keeping the egg fresh. High temperatures of storage lead to a fast spoilage of eggs.
What are the risks of eating expired eggs?
The risks of eating expired eggs are summarised in the table below (1, 6, 8, 9):
|The ingestion of eggs contaminated by microorganisms can lead to foodborne infections. By long storage of fresh eggs, pathogenic bacteria that are present on the eggshell penetrate the egg’s inner part. Egg and egg products are commonly related to food outbreaks by Salmonella, Staphylococcus, Escherichia coli and Campylobacter jejuni||In foodborne infections, the pathogens invade the individual´s gastric system as well as other organs, leading to symptoms such as diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea, fever, and damage to the intestinal tissue. In more severe cases, it can lead to meningitis and septicemia|
|The ingestion of toxins produced by microorganisms can lead to intoxication or poisoning. Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli, Bacillus and Staphylococcus are the most reported bacteria that cause poisoning||The ingestion of toxins can lead to watery or bloody diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal pain and headache. In severe cases, it can lead to dehydration and loss of weight|
How to know if the egg is spoiled?
To know if the egg is spoiled, you should be aware of the possible signs of spoilage (4, 5, 6, 7):
|Egg part||Characteristic indicating spoilage|
|Discolouration in the outer part of the eggshell: red, pink, blue, black, green
Discolouration in the inner part of the egg: the presence of black spots
Cracks (do not indicate spoilage, but a higher risk of spoilage)
Abnormal shape: flat
Abnormal odour, colour or taste
Discolouration: the presence of red, white or black spots
|Presence of a yellow pigment|
|Abnormal consistency (watery)|
How to test the freshness of an egg?
The possible tests to measure the freshness of an egg are given in the table below (4, 5, 6, 7):
|Visual inspection of eggshell||Look for coloured spots, dirt and cracks||While dirt and cracks may not indicate spoilage, coloured spots are indications of microbial growth|
|Whole egg aspect||Fell the egg odour||Bad/ rotten odour indicates spoilage|
|Candling||Place a candle in a dark room and observe the egg through the candlelight||A high air cell height indicates that the egg is not fresh – a great amount of air indicates the loss of moisture
Candling can indicate the presence of cracks and doubled yolk
|Density test||Dissolve 8 g of salt in a cup with 100 mL of water and immerse the egg inside||If the egg floats, it is no longer fresh|
|Opening the egg||Crack the egg and observe how it comes out of the eggshell
Be aware of the presence of off-odours
Seek for the presence of blood spots
Seek for the presence of coloured spots
|The egg sticks in the inner part of the eggshell – the egg is no longer fresh
Off-odours indicate spoilage
The presence of blood spots does not necessarily unsafe to eat but favours spoilage of the egg
Coloured spots indicate spoilage
|Inspection of the yolk shape||Crack the egg on a plate and observe the shape of the yolk||A flat or loose yolk indicates that the egg is no longer fresh|
|Inspection of the egg white||Observe the egg white in therm os colour, consistency and odour||Abnormal characteristics of the colour, odour or consistency (watery) indicate spoilage|
How to reduce the risks of eating expired eggs?
To reduce the risks of eating expired eggs, you can cook the eggs or use the eggs for baking. Most of the pathogens are destroyed at cooking temperatures of 71 °C (160 °F) (5). In addition, some toxins are also destroyed by heat (8).
Wash the eggs carefully and make a complete and thorough inspection of the outer and inner parts of the egg and do not consume eggs if any signs of spoilage are noticeable (5, 6).
After purchasing eggs, store them in the refrigerator to improve their shelf life (3).
In this article, we discussed whether it is safe to eat expired eggs, how are eggs labelled, how to know if eggs are spoiled and how to test the freshness of eggs.
Spoilage in eggs is easy to tell, however, if I want to eat soft-boiled eggs or make mayonnaise with uncooked egg yolk, I make sure to use only very fresh eggs.
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