The hard-boiled truth

The low-down on food safety, from rotten eggs to sneaky additives in every-day food items such as cheeses and cakes.

eggs in hand 521 (photo credit: Ron Tarver/Philadelphia Inquirer/MCT)
eggs in hand 521
(photo credit: Ron Tarver/Philadelphia Inquirer/MCT)
I am always careful to keep raw eggs in the refrigerator and not to keep them too long; I won’t eat them when they are spoiled. I am more liberal with hard-boiled eggs. But a friend told me that eggs in the shell can be kept longer than hard-boiled eggs. Is this true? – T.A., Kfar Saba
Judy Siegel-Itzkovich notes:
The US Department of Agriculture and the American Egg Board have published this up-to-date information. They advise discarding hard-boiled eggs after one week. They explain that cooking eggs in water washes away their protective coating, and this leaves tiny pores open in the shell through which bacteria can enter and contaminate the egg.
Uncooked fresh eggs keep longer because they retain their protective coating – either the natural coating (called the cuticle or bloom) produced when the hen lays an egg, or a mineral oil that egg producers spray after eggs are washed at processing plants.
Raw eggs in the shell will keep for about four to six weeks if maintained in cool temperatures, depending on how fresh the eggs are when you purchase them. Eggs that are only a few days old will keep well over a month. Eggs from the store usually keep about two weeks past the expiration date.
However, you never know how old they are when they make it to the store. A good way to determine if eggs are still good or not is to put a raw egg (in its shell) in a full glass of water (so the water covers the egg by a few centimeters). If the egg floats, it is not fresh. If it stays at the bottom of the glass, it is still good. This is because as eggs break down, they get air pockets inside the shell. And remember always to store raw eggs on an inside shelf of the refrigerator rather than in the door, which keeps opening and closing.
There is something that has been bothering me for a long time – the use of food additives in store-bought foods.

I read that these dangerous additives can cause anything from peptic disorders to cancer. So I listed some of the more dangerous ones, such as E330, and found that they can be found in sodas, cakes and cheeses. Just yesterday, after cutting out yellow cheeses from my diet for a while, I thought I’d get the 9 percent light yellow cheese, but found that almost all the packaged yellow cheeses contained E330 and other (maybe less dangerous) additives. I also found these additives in the Osem cakes and various soft drinks. Everyone I mention this to says that the amounts of these additives are so small that they are not harmful. But how can this be when almost everything you eat contains them, and if you feed them to your kids from a young age, can’t this contribute to illnesses in the future? Someone just said that she read that E330 has been erroneously listed as cancercausing, because of a misinterpretation of a German word or name of the scientist.

If this is correct, then all the listings I have seen are incorrect.

– B.K., Jerusalem
Health Ministry spokeswoman Einav Shimron replies:
Food additives approved for use in Israel according to government regulations are safe for use according to the best information available today. Safety of use of food additives is checked both in Israel and on an international level including by the World Health Organization by committees of experts. E330 (citric acid) whose safety has been established, is permitted for use in many advanced countries, including the US and EU countries as well as Israel. The ministry’s website has information at pages/default.asp?maincat=51&cati d=324&pageid=2831, with a listing of dangerous food colors and additives. A list of permitted food additives is also there at nov2010.pdf.pdf.
Judy Siegel-Itzkovich comments:
Not everyone agrees that the Health Ministry listings of permitted artificial colors contain only safe ones. The use of tartrazine (E102), which produces a strong yellow color, has been used legally for many years in Israel, but it is banned in Norway. It was also banned in Austria and Germany until the ban was overturned by a European Union directive. The United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency in April 2008 called for a voluntary phase-out of tartrazine, along with five other colorings, due to a reported link with hyperactivity in children. Manufacturers of some organic foods use natural beta carotene as an additive when a yellow color is desired.
An increasing number of Israelis prefer less-garish-looking products with natural colors, or none at all, to those with added chemicals. Decades ago, all soup noodles were colored bright yellow with tartrazine to give the impression that they contained eggs, when they had none at all. Today, they are not so colored anymore because consumers objected.
Rx for Readers welcomes queries from readers about medical problems. Experts will answer those we find most interesting.
Write Rx for Readers, The Jerusalem Post, POB 81, Jerusalem 91000, fax your question to Judy Siegel-Itzkovich at (02) 538- 9527, or e-mail it to, giving your initials, age and place of residence.