When I take new clients around to see the sites and the many great offerings in the Playa Hermosa area of Costa Rica, I always get this question all time when I take them to the grocery stores; “How come the eggs are not refrigerated?”
Most expats from Canada and the United States are brain washed in to finding their favorite breakfast item in the refrigerated section of the grocery store along with cheese, milk, yogurt and a whole bunch more. However, most of the world, including Costa Rica, doesn’t refrigerate their eggs. Now don’t get sick on me, let me continue. Both washed and unwashed eggs are safe to eat, as well as unrefrigerated eggs as long as they have been handled properly. That’s the KEY handled properly!!
The main concern with proper handling of eggs has to do with avoiding salmonella and we all know what nasty things can happen when you get a dose of it and I won’t go into it.
The United States is one of the few countries that washes and refrigerates its eggs to deal with salmonella. One of the other main reasons is so that manufactures or farmers can get a few extra days shelf life out of the product they are selling. When a chicken lays its eggs they have their own natural protective coating, but the process of washing them removes this first line of defense, making the shells more porous. It comes down to trying to make the eggs look more appealing or clean, this process actually increases the risk for salmonella passing into the eggs, hence why they have to stay refrigerated until they are used. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), washed eggs should be kept at temperatures no higher than 45 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the supply chain.
In Latin America and many other countries worldwide, there is no wet washing process, the eggs are cleaned while dry, and transported at room temperature. If the eggs stay dry, they keep their natural protection against pathogens.
In Costa Rica eggs are required to be stored in clean, dry areas, and transported at room temperature out of extreme heat. Any eggs that are wet, broken, or, in the case of any producers who do wash their eggs, if unrefrigerated for any period of time after washing, are prohibited from sale. Fresh eggs as a whole only have a 20 day shelf life. I bet you may have eggs in your frig longer than that?
Personally I purchase my eggs from a farmer up in the mountains. He makes weekly runs down to the beach area and to be honest with you his eggs are better than any I have ever had in the US or for that matter even here in Costa Rica that I bought in a store. His eggs come from true free range hens and are the best I have ever had. Eggs like any protein are very perishable so as soon as I get them from Herbert I put them in the refrigerator anyway. I have never had a bad egg yet nor have I even gotten sick from eating his eggs.
Hens that already have salmonella can pass the bacteria into the yolks of their eggs, even if the shell is in good condition and the eggs are properly handled. So do not ever eat raw eggs! After doing some research for this article I found out that the FDA and the Costa Rican Nutrition and Health Research Institute (INCIENSA), recommended cooking eggs through and keeping all egg-based dishes refrigerated. They also recommend that during food preparation, whether home or professionally, avoid cracking eggs on the lip of the container you are using to avoid any pathogens transferring from the outside of the shell into the food being prepared. So when you baking that surprise birthday cake for your loved one, don’t use the egg shell to separate the whites from the yolk.
Just remember, so long as the eggs are fresh and handled the right way, you should have no worries buying unrefrigerated eggs in Costa Rica! I will take mine over easy please!