Eggs with Cracked Shells: Still Safe to Eat?


[Updated April 30, 2018]

Q: If there is a crack in the shell of an egg, is it still OK to use?

Lynne Ausman, DSc, RD, director of the Master of Nutrition Science and Policy program at Tufts’ Friedman School, answers:

A:“Bacteria associated with food-borne illness (food poisoning), including Salmonella, can enter eggs through cracks in the shells. In a study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, eggs with large cracks in the shells were more likely to contain Salmonella compared to eggs without cracks or only hairline cracks (viewed with the help of light in a process called candling). So, check eggs before purchasing to avoid buying those with obviously cracked shells.

“If eggs crack while transporting them home from the store, the USDA advises breaking any cracked eggs into a clean container. Tightly cover the container and refrigerate it, using the eggs within two days. If eggs crack during hard boiling, they are still safe to consume.

“Keep in mind that even non-cracked eggs may be contaminated with Salmonella. The USDA says the number of eggs affected is quite small but cautions us to always handle eggs safely. That includes only buying refrigerated eggs, putting eggs in the refrigerator as soon as you get home from the store (bacteria multiply quickly at room temperature) and cooking eggs thoroughly, until both the white and yolk are firm.” For more information on egg safety, visit, and search on “shell eggs from farm to table.”

To learn more: Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, January 2009

To learn more: USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service – Shell eggs from farm to table


    • eggs have a coating around them that keeps them protected at room temperature. however, the FDA requires it to be cleaned off so we have to refrigerate eggs in the US

    • It really depends on what you do with the eggs. USA factories wash their eggs and that removes the “invisible protection” around it (bloom, cuticle), thus allowing bacteria to easily infiltrate. I have backyard chickens and we don’t clean the eggs until we’re ready to eat them. So we leave them on the counter.

  1. Thank you for this important safety info re: storing and using fresh eggs.
    I did learn a lot from it
    I will definitely keep it all in mind and practice it daily when using and purchasing them.

  2. Hello:
    We have had chickens for over 40 years… started out with my twins wanting to bring home the newly hatched chicks that they had in school (6th grade science)
    We have replaced them gradually as the old ones died and now are down to 5 who are still laying but we only get one egg a day…..we never (rarely) wash them… only when they are dirty. If they remain unwashed they will be fine and do not even need refrigeration… one of natures wonders.

  3. Thank you to all of you home growers for once again reminding us about the misguided paranoia about microbes which is only an issue due to mishandling of our fragile but intimate connection to the rest of the natural world. Listen to Youtubes by Zack Bush, MD, triple board certified expert on disease and health. Tufts nutrition people, WAKE UP. I’ve subscribed for years and am increasingly dismayed at the ignorance or incomplete reporting. You run a science program, for God’s sake!

  4. Amen, Dr. Shafer!
    I’m coming across more and more “information” that is suspect or incorrect. You have a responsibility to carefully vet this stuff, as many folks consider it the last word. Not only your site, Harvard and others as well.


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