Ask Dr. H: Eggs safe to eat weeks after expiration?

Q: How long is it safe to keep eggs in the refrigerator before they need to be discarded? — P.W., Jackson, Mich.



A: According to the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, eggs in the shell will maintain freshness for three to five weeks beyond the carton’s stamped expiration date, provided that you keep them refrigerated at a temperature of about 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

A hard-boiled egg should be used within a week. It’s a good idea to use a refrigerator thermometer to accurately set the temperature. The last date of sale stamped on a carton from a USDA-inspected egg facility cannot exceed 30 days after the pack date.

Every carton of eggs has a stamped “Julian date,” a three digit number corresponding to the day of the year the eggs were packaged. For example, June 27 is the 178th day of the year.

Another point about freshness: Placing an egg in a glass of water will identify the freshest eggs. An egg that doesn’t float is fresher than an egg that floats, but an egg that floats may still be safe and delicious.

Q: My 78-year-old wife constantly has diarrhea. She’s a diabetic and is legally blind. Her doctor advised stopping all dairy products, but that hasn’t helped. Her appetite is small, but she eats often and has been able to maintain her weight. Can you help? — B.J., Bethlehem, Pa.

A: A careful history, including a review of medication and diet can narrow down the list of suspects. The absence of weight loss is a useful clue. A 24-hour stool collection is very useful. A gastroenterologist is the best specialist to evaluate chronic diarrhea.

If it’s due to diabetes, the best treatment is daily anti-diarrheal medication such as Imodium, Bentyl, Lomotil, Robinul or Clonidine patch to inhibit electrolyte secretion. If irritable bowel syndrome is a possibility, the addition of Pamelor at bedtime can be quite helpful.

Dr. Mitchell Hecht is a physician specializing in internal medicine. Send questions to him at: “Ask Dr. H,” P.O. Box 767787, Roswell, GA 30076. Because of the large volume of mail received, personal replies are not possible.

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