Top five egg safety questions

Egg Safety Center is your resource for the safe cooking, handling and storage of eggs.  Below are the five top questions from consumers.


“I accidentally left a carton of eggs out on the counter overnight.  Are these eggs safe to eat?”

The short answer is, “No.” After eggs are refrigerated on the farm, it’s important they stay that way. Maintaining a consistent, cool temperature is critical to safety. A chilled egg left out at room temperature will sweat, and that encourages bacteria growth. Cold eggs should not be left out more than two hours before being refrigerated again.

“If I find a cracked egg in the carton, is it safe to eat that egg?”

You should avoid purchasing cracked eggs, so open the carton and check for cracks at the store.  Never purchase cracked eggs because bacteria can enter eggs through cracks. If eggs crack during the ride home from the store, break them into a clean container, cover them tightly and place them in the refrigerator. They should be eaten within two days and make sure they are cooked to the proper temperature.

“Sometimes, when I boil eggs, a few will float to the surface.  What does this mean?”  

Eggs have an air cell that becomes larger as the egg ages and this creates buoyancy. An egg can float in water when its air cell has enlarged sufficiently. This means the egg is older, but it may be perfectly safe. To determine if a floating egg is usable, crack it into a bowl and examine it for an off-odor or unusual appearance before deciding to use or discard it. A spoiled egg, whether raw or cooked, will have an unpleasant odor when you break open the shell.

“Egg carton have a lot of numbers on them.  What do all those numbers mean?”  

Two dates can appear on the egg carton: the Julian date and the sell-by or expiration date. The Julian date is a three-digit code representing the day of the year the eggs were packed (001 is Jan. 1 and Dec. 31 is 365).  Kept refrigerated, eggs are safe to eat four to five weeks beyond the carton’s Julian date.  Although not required in all states, cartons may also carry a sell by or expiration date (EXP) beyond which the eggs should not be sold but are still safe to eat. On cartons with the USDA grade logo, the expiration date cannot exceed 30 days after the eggs were packed in the carton. Depending on the retailer, the expiration date may be less than 30 days. Eggs packed in cartons without the USDA grade logo are governed by the laws of their states.  Always purchase eggs before the sell-by or expiration date on the carton. These dates are usually found on the short side of the egg carton.

“I cracked an egg and found a red spot in the yolk!  Is this safe to eat?”

Sometimes, “blood” or “meat” spots are occasionally found in the egg yolk.  These are merely the result of a ruptured blood vessel on the yolk surface when the egg was being formed or by a similar accident in the wall of the hen’s oviduct. Most of the time, eggs with blood spots are detected by electronic spotters and never reach the market. But, it’s impossible to catch them all. Both chemically and nutritionally, eggs with these spots are perfectly healthy to eat.

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