Organic Eggs at the Grocery Store…NOT so Quick! – Your Health Detective

Most state laws make organic eggs illegal for commercial production…unless ALL the eggs sold commercially are processed with non-damaging methods?

Some states go as far as requiring that ALL eggs receive a bath with chlorine and mineral oil before they are nestled into their cozy cartons.

The Journey of an Egg – Why It’s Important

Egg journeys are important because commercial processing regularly destroys the eggs’ protective cuticle. And, it is standard commercial industry practice to wash chicken eggs.

Depending on washing method, the cuticle is easily damaged – leaving eggs vulnerable to contamination and faster spoilage. The egg industry knows this, so to replace what Mother Nature put there for good reason, they must coat the egg with something—often mineral oil – akin to adding preservatives to processed foods.

Not only is mineral oil a non-natural agent – it’s a petroleum product that was never intended for you to eat.  Health and environmentally-conscious egg producers use vegetable oil as a natural alternative.

For you gourmet cooks, using eggs whose shells were oiled will prevent those “stiff peaks” from forming because some oil seeps into the egg white – just like what you apply to your skin seeps into your body, what’s put ON your egg goes INTO your egg!

Not all eggs undergo oiling, but many larger producers do, particularly if they are preparing their eggs for long-distance shipment and/or storage. I could find no statistic about what percentage of eggs are cleaned in a way that their cuticle has been wiped out, but I suspect it is high.

Organic Eggs – A Bath of Chlorine and a Rinse of Lye?

According to A Guide to On-Farm Processing for Organic Producers: Table Eggs, detergents and other chemicals used for “wet cleaning” eggs must either be non-synthetic or among the allowed synthetics on the National List of allowed non-agricultural substances (205.603 of the National Organic Standard).

These synthetics include:

Chlorine (sodium hypochlorate)

Potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide (lye)

Sodium carbonate


Hydrogen peroxide

Peracetic acid (peroxyacetic acid) — a mixture of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide

These agents serve mostly as sanitizers, rather than washing agents.

Chlorine can interact with organic materials to form highly toxic compounds called DBPs (Disinfection By-products), which can be carcinogenic and mutagenic. And eggs are an “organic material,” which bears the question of what chemical interactions are occurring in a chlorinated egg that has yet to be discovered?

Instead of harsh chemicals, the guide cited above recommends cleaning eggs with plain vinegar (mixed with 3 parts water) because it’s non-synthetic and effective at removing bacteria and stains on eggshells (which some people find objectionable).

If the water is too cold relative to the egg, the egg can literally “suck in” the washing solution – along with the bacteria in it. Water exposure should be as brief as possible to minimize the potential for contamination and breakage and the eggs dried immediately.

Dry-skin Brushing for Eggs

Some farmers rinse eggs quickly in water, just to dislodge any debris, and believe this is adequate. Others use a dry brushing process – no liquids at all – just a brush, sandpaper, or a loofah sponge. This dry brushing technique is highly recommended for small producers.

 Mineral oil is not listed in the National List of allowed substances, although used by many commercial producers.

I think it is unlikely that an organic farmer would choose to use mineral oil, but the regulations are so variable from state to state, and the national guidelines so nebulous, that there is lots of wiggle room.

A Scrambled Mess

There are different federal and state regulations for egg farmers, depending on what the eggs are intended for.

Eggs that are going to be used in egg products (i.e., those that will be cracked and emptied) are subjected to one set of regulations, and eggs that are sold as “table eggs” or “shell eggs,” which are sold fresh and whole “in the shell,” are subject to another set of regulations.

State Regulations, in Addition to Federal Regulations

In 1970, Congress passed the Egg Products Inspection Act (administered by the USDA) to ensure that eggs and egg products are safe for consumption. This act imposes specific inspection requirements for both shell eggs and egg products for anyone who sells eggs to retailers (grocery stores, restaurants, hotels, etc.).

In 1972, on-site inspections of all shell egg producers became required quarterly. However, any producer with a flock of LESS than 3,000 birds is EXEMPT from this act – this doesn’t make healthy sense to me, does it to you?

Every state has its own specific egg laws, which makes it more complicated to figure out what process your eggs have gone through. Although the USDA does not allow immersion washing (allowing eggs to soak in water), most small producers are not subject to those restrictions. And most state egg laws do not specify washing methods.

For an extensive list of egg regulatory agencies, you can refer to this USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service “fact sheet,” on their website at

 Egg Cleaners and Sanitizers

 According to the USDA’s publication Guidance for Shell Egg Cleaners and Sanitizers:

“Compounds used to wash and remove stains from shell eggs are potential food additives. Therefore, they are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Unfortunately, FDA does not have any published regulations dealing with shell egg cleaning and compounds used for removing stains.” Leaves it wide open, doesn’t it?

 Refrigerate or Not?

Despite what you’ve heard, eggs that are fresh and have an intact cuticle do not need to be refrigerated, as long as you’re going to consume them within a relatively short period of time.

In other countries, including most of Europe, eggs are frequently not refrigerated.

So, IF your eggs are very fresh, and IF their cuticle is intact, you don’t have to refrigerate them. According to Hilary Thesmar, director of the American Egg Board’s Egg Safety Center, “The bottom line is shelf life. The shelf life for an unrefrigerated egg is 7 to 10 days and for refrigerated, it’s 30 to 45 days. A good rule of thumb is one day at room temperature is equal to one week under refrigeration.”

Eggs purchased from grocery stores are typically already three weeks old, or older. USDA certified eggs must have a pack date on the carton, and a sell-by date. Realize that the eggs were often laid many days or weeks prior to the pack date.

 How Can You Guarantee Clean, Fresh Eggs?

So, how can you tell if your eggs have been washed in chlorine or lye, or in some other chemical, or coated with mineral oil? You certainly can’t tell by looking at them.

The only way to know if your eggs have been washed or oiled (and using what agents) is to ask the producer – and the only way to do that is to buy from small local farmers you have direct contact with.

It is important to know where your food comes from – if you don’t ask, they won’t tell you.

The key here is to buy your eggs locally Farmers markets are a great way to meet the people who produce your food. With face-to-face contact, you can get your questions answered and know exactly what you’re buying. Better yet, visit the farm – ask for a tour. If you have children or grandchildren and they’ve never toured a chicken farm, now’s the time; it’s quite the educational venture. If the farmer has nothing to hide, they should be eager to show you their operation. 

Remember, clean and happy chickens lead to clean and healthy eggs, naturally.

Your Health Detective:

Uncovering Clues to Add LIFE to Your Years…NOT Merely Years to Your Life, Naturally

Dr. Gloria Gilbère (aka Dr. G), N.D., D.A.Hom., Ph.D.,  D.S.C., EcoErgonomist,

Wholistic Rejuvenist

Dr. Gilbère is renowned worldwide for her work in identifying and finding natural solutions to chemically-induced and inflammatory disorders, multiple chemical sensitivities, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, Gulf War Syndrome, and digestive disorders that defy conventional diagnosis and treatment. She consults worldwide via telephone and at her Institute in north Idaho. Visit her website at for details about consulting with her.

Creator of certificated courses to become a Wholistic Rejuvenist™ (CWR) and for post-graduate education for health and spa professionals. Go to and click on Wholistic Skin & Body Rejuvenation (WSBR™) for course outline. Available on-site at worldwide locations, and via distance-learning at your convenience globally.

Published by Institute for Wholistic Rejuvenation – ©2009/2010 division of Gloria E. Gilbère, LLC, all rights reserved.

Information in this newsletter is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by medical professionals, nor is it intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent a disease or disorder. The FDA has not reviewed or endorsed the contents of this educational publication.

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