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5 ways to tell if an egg is fresh or rotten

A Comprehensive Guide to Determining Egg Freshness and Preventing Food Waste


Cracking open an egg can sometimes leave you questioning its freshness, especially since the protective shell conceals the condition of the egg’s contents. However, there are several methods to determine an egg’s freshness, along with preventive measures to avoid food waste.

Understanding Food Waste

In France alone, nearly 10 million tons of food go to waste annually, with expired expiration dates often being a primary reason for disposal. According to reports, approximately 720 million eggs are discarded in the UK yearly, highlighting the global issue of food wastage.

The Challenge of Assessing Egg Freshness

The opaque shell of an egg makes it difficult to assess its freshness, leading to uncertainty about its suitability for consumption. This uncertainty contributes to the alarming rates of egg wastage worldwide.

Tips for Assessing Egg Freshness

1. Check Expiration Dates

Supermarket-bought eggs come with a recommended use-by date, usually indicated on the packaging. In France, distributors are mandated not to sell eggs seven days before the minimum durability date (Ddm) stated on the packaging. For farm-fresh eggs, the use-by date (Dlc) is typically within 28 days of laying. Proper storage can extend this period up to 58 days after laying, provided the shells remain intact.

2. Smell the Egg

A foul odor emanating from an egg past its expiration date indicates spoilage and renders it unsafe for consumption. Eggs past their prime may lose their vitamins and develop an altered taste. However, if the egg smells normal, it can still be consumed promptly.

3. Check the Appearance of the Shell

Visually inspect the egg for any powdery, viscous, or cracked shell, which could indicate the presence of mold. Suspicious discoloration, such as blue, pink, black, or green hues in the egg white or yolk, may signify bacterial growth and potential food poisoning.

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4. Dip the Egg in Water

Submerging the egg in water can help assess its freshness. A fresh egg sinks to the bottom, while an older one stands upright or floats due to moisture loss through microscopic pores, resulting in a larger air pocket.

5. Use the Mirage Technique

Candling, a method used in industrial settings, involves assessing egg quality by examining the air pocket’s size. Larger air pockets indicate aging, as water evaporates and is replaced by gases over time.

FAQs About Expiration Dates and Food Consumption

Can Food Be Consumed After the Expiration Date?

While some foods can be safely consumed past their expiration date, consuming raw or expired perishables like fish, eggs, or meat poses health risks. Careful examination of packaging and product condition is crucial to ensure safe consumption.

Foods That Can Be Consumed After the Expiration Date

Certain foods, such as real honey, salt, sugar, vinegar, canned goods, rice, pasta, and dried vegetables, can remain safe for consumption beyond their expiration dates, barring infestation or spoilage. Dairy products like crème fraîche, cheese, milk, and yogurt, if unopened, may also be consumed within a limited timeframe after the expiration date.

Foods You Should Avoid After the Expiration Date

Vacuum-packed raw meats, eggs, fish, cold cuts, fresh fruit juices, and salads in bags are prone to bacterial contamination beyond their expiration dates. Consuming these products post-expiration can lead to foodborne illnesses and should be avoided.


Properly assessing the freshness of eggs and other perishables is crucial in minimizing food waste and ensuring food safety. By following these guidelines and understanding expiration dates, individuals can make informed decisions about food consumption, contributing to a more sustainable and healthy food system.