askST: Is there a need to refrigerate eggs and are there any benefits in doing so?

Reader Fitzgerald Hendroff wrote in to ask if there is a need to refrigerate eggs and if there are any benefits in doing so.

Food reporter Kenneth Goh finds out.

The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) advises consumers to keep eggs in refrigerators as it will help keep the eggs fresh longer.

Shell eggs may contain salmonella bacteria, which is a common cause of food poisoning.

The bacteria is also found in raw meat, poultry, raw unwashed vegetables, unpasteurised milk and dairy products. It can also be found in the gut and faeces of animals and humans.

Shell eggs may contain salmonella bacteria, which is a common cause of food poisoning. PHOTO: AGRI-FOOD AND VETERINARY AUTHORITY OF SINGAPORE

Salmonella can be transmitted to humans when they consume eggs that have been contaminated by the bacteria found in chicken droppings. The bacteria penetrate the egg through cracks in the shell.

Salmonella, which causes food-borne illnesses, takes 12 to 48 hours for symptoms to develop. They include fever, diarrhoea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

The AVA advises consumers to adopt good food safety practices such as separating raw food, including eggs, from cooked or ready-to-eat food as raw food may contain micro-organisms that can cause food poisoning.

Another tip is to wash hands, utensils and surfaces thoroughly after handling raw food before coming into any contact with cooked and ready-to-eat food.

As part of AVA's routine surveillance programme, food including eggs, are subjected to regular inspections and sampling to comply with food safety standards and requirements.

The tests cover a wide range of chemical contaminants and microbiological hazards, such as pesticide residues, drug residues (such as antibiotics and hormones) as well as microbial hazards like salmonella.

Food products that are found to be unsafe will not be allowed for sale.

Update: Following the publication of this answer, readers Alice Chua and Eunice Wong wrote in to ask if it is a good idea to wash eggs before refrigerating them. 

Reporter Kenneth Goh checked with AVA. 

An AVA spokesman says this is not recommended as washing the eggs may remove the natural coating, or cuticle of the egg shell. This may aid the transfer of bacteria into the egg.