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Should raw eggs be refrigerated?

Does the current EU regulation ensure


high-quality shell eggs for the European consumers?
Kostadin Fikiin a * Stepan Akterian b Borislav Stankov a
a Technical University of Sofia, Bulgaria; b University of Food Technologies Plovdiv, Bulgaria
* Corresponding author: k.fikiin@tu-sofia.bg
30th EFFoSt International Conference, Vienna, Austria, 28-30 November 2016

1. INTRODUCTION 2. CURRENT EC REGULATION 3. INCONSISTENCIES


The current EC Regulation No 589/2008 (allegedly To avoid surface condensation, it is stipulated that: Constant temperature cannot be maintained
based on EFSA advice) contains a number of
Eggs should not be refrigerated before sale to the without a temperature-controlled cold chain.
internal inconsistencies, which confuse the EU
food chain operators. final consumer;
No concrete handling temperature is proposed
These imperfections are caused by: Class A eggs are to be downgraded to Class B if
(neither as a specific value or upper limit, nor
chilled below 5C during a period longer than 24
Overemphasis on Salmonella-related safety hours for transport or 72 hours for retail;
related to product quality and shelf life).
risks, while overlooking other substantial safety
and quality aspects; Only the French overseas departments can enjoy While packs with class A eggs should have
Obscure temperature control requirements,
chilled eggs, whose packages should prominently a labelled indication advising consumers to
be marked as a 'dangerous' good; keep eggs chilled after purchase, egg handling
which inspires fear from chilled storage but
tolerates handling at high temperatures. A constant temperature of transportation is sought. operators are discouraged to do the same.

4. CLIMATIC CONSIDERATIONS AND


GEOGRAPHICAL VALIDITY b

a
vs

Figure 1. Climatic regions of Europe


1 - temperate (avg. summer temperature, Ts, up to 20 C and
avg. winter temperature, Tw, over 0 C); 2 - cold (Tw below 0 C); Figure 2. (a) Average Annual Relative Humidity throughout Europe
3 - hot (Ts over 20 C); 4 - continental (Ts over 20 C and Tw below 0 C) (Adapted from Atlas of Biosphere: https://nelson.wisc.edu);
(Adapted from Atlas of Biosphere: https://nelson.wisc.edu). (b) Dew point vs air temperature for various RHs.

Figure 1 clearly indicates that handling eggs at ambient temperatures is only feasible in
the temperate climatic region of Europe (coloured in green), which substantially restricts
the validity range of Regulation No. 589/2008 (given also the initial freezing point of eggs
is approximately 2.2 C).
In Northernmost Europe the average relative humidity, RH, is about 90 %, while in the
southernmost countries RH is approx. 60 % (Figure 2). For an RH of 90, 70 and 60 %,
the dew-point temperature is lower than the dry-bulb temperature by 1.5, 5 and 7 C,
6. CONCLUSIONS AND
respectively. Hence, the famous condensation on the egg surface below 5 C (addressed RECOMMENDATIONS
by EU Regulation No. 589/2008) occurs intensively, as a perceptive problem, in the
northernmost European regions with comparatively low temperatures and RH, rather than The temperature control requirements of
in the rest of Europe, where the high temperatures are a major source of risk by themselves. existing EU egg handling norms (such as
5. COMPARISON WITH ANALOGOUS REGULATIONS EC Regulation No 589/2008) need a
AROUND THE WORLD careful reconsideration.
The FAO Guide for the Production and Sale of Eggs (2003) recommends a preferable cold Temperature-dependent food quality
storage temperature of 0-1.5 C, but anyway below 13 C even for tropics (with an RH of 80-85%
and 75-80 %, respectively). The recommended temperature of transport over 5-6 days is between characteristics should be deliberated and
1 and 1 C. implemented to a much larger extent.
According to 'HACCP and ISO 22000 and their Application to Products of Animal Origin'
(Arvanitoyannis, 2009), cold storage and distribution of fresh eggs are Critical Control Points Substantial efforts should also be made
(with a temperature to be kept in the range of 8 to 22 C and an RH of 60 to 75 %).
to harmonize the huge discrepancies
The Russian Standard GOST 31654: 2012 requires storing chicken eggs at temperatures of 0-20 C
and RHs of 85-88 % during 7-25 days, depending on the egg type. Longer-term storage of up to 90 between relevant codes and practices
days is also foreseen at a temperature between 2 and 0 C and the same RH. in Europe, USA and the rest of the world
Most of the USA standards and practices regarding the post-incubation processing and handling (possibly under the GHI umbrella:
of eggs (e.g. immediate chilling, washing, waxing, etc.) are quite contradictory to the EU regulations
(based on minimal intervention principles). globalharmonization.net).