Ah! Milk on the Shelf

If you’ve ever traveled to Europe, you’ll notice something interesting. In the grocery stores, milk and eggs sit out in the aisles unrefrigerated. What kind of magic is this?! The secret to Europe’s room temperature dairy products is sterilization and vaccinations.

Milk Bacteria

While pasteurization kills most of the bacteria in milk, sterilization kills all the bacteria. It may not seem like a big difference, but without any living microorganisms in the milk, there’s no chance of it spoiling at room temperature. Milk can be stored at room temperature as long as the container is sealed. However, once you open the bottle, microorganisms from the air will contaminate the milk and you must refrigerate the bottle. One advantage to sterilizing milk is that you can buy it in bulk, use as needed, and reduce the number of trips to the grocery store.

Salmonella and Eggs

Ok, we covered the milk, now what about the eggs? In America, eggs are washed before they arrive at the grocery store. This washing process removes the cuticle and exposes the porous shell. If water is able to seep into the egg, then so can bacteria such as Salmonella, which grow rapidly at room temperature. Since Salmonella is unavoidable, European countries fix this nasty bacterial problem by simply vaccinating their chickens. No need to wash the eggs, no Salmonella worries.

Lingering Questions

America isn’t the only country to wash their eggs, Japan does the same thing too! One of the positives of refrigerating eggs is that it increases their shelf life. At the end of the day, there isn’t a hard line between who is right and who isn’t when it comes to egg refrigeration. From what I gathered, it’s more of a cultural or convenience issue; some places simply don’t have access to lots of refrigerators. No matter what country you are in, remember that avoiding cross-contamination and cooking meat all the way through is the best way to prevent Salmonella poisoning.