Essential safety tips for Easter eggs
April 2, 2012 3:58PM
Updated: May 5, 2012 8:03AM
Sometimes eggs are decorated, used as decorations, and hunted at Easter. Here are some safety tips for Easter eggs.
■ Dyeing eggs: After hard cooking eggs, dye them and return them to the refrigerator within 2 hours. If eggs are to be eaten, use a food-safe coloring. As with all foods, persons dyeing the eggs should wash their hands before handling the eggs.
■ Decorations: One Easter bread recipe is decorated with dyed, cooked eggs in the braided bread. After baking, serve within 2 hours or refrigerate and use within 3 to 4 days.
■ Blowing out eggshells: Because some raw eggs may contain Salmonella, you must use caution when blowing out the contents to hollow out the shell for decorating, such as for Ukrainian Easter eggs. Use only eggs that have been kept refrigerated and are uncracked. To destroy bacteria that may be present on the surface of the egg, wash the egg in hot water and then rinse in a solution of 1 teaspoon liquid chlorine bleach per half cup of water. After blowing out the egg, refrigerate the contents and use within 2 to 4 days.
■ Hunting eggs: We do not recommend using hard cooked eggs that have been lying on the ground, because they can pick up bacteria, especially if the shells are cracked. If the shells crack, bacteria could contaminate the inside. Eggs should be hidden in places that are protected from dirt, moisture, pets, and other sources of bacteria. The total time for hiding and hunting eggs should not exceed 2 hours. The “found” eggs must be washed, re-refrigerated and eaten within 7 days of cooking.
How does Salmonella infect eggs? Bacteria can be on the outside of a shell egg. That’s because the egg exits the hen’s body through the same passageway as feces is excreted. That’s why eggs are required to be washed at the processing plant. All USDA graded eggs and most large volume processors follow the washing step with a sanitizing rinse at the processing plant. It is also possible for eggs to become infected by Salmonella Enteritidis fecal contamination through the pores of the shells after they’re laid. SE also can be inside an uncracked, whole egg. Contamination of eggs may be due to bacteria within the hen’s reproductive tract before the shell forms around the yolk and white. SE doesn’t make the hen sick.
Why do hard-cooked eggs spoil faster than fresh eggs? When shell eggs are hard cooked, the protective coating is washed away, leaving bare the pores in the shell for bacteria to enter and contaminate it. Hard-cooked eggs should be refrigerated within 2 hours of cooking and used within a week.
What makes hard-cooked eggs hard to peel? The fresher the egg, the more difficult it is to peel after hard cooking. That’s because the air cell, found at the large end of the shell between the shell membranes, increases in size the longer the raw egg is stored. As the contents of the egg contracts and the air cell enlarges, the shell becomes easier to peel. For this reason, older eggs make better candidates for hard cooking.
After purchasing eggs, take them straight home and store immediately in the refrigerator set at 40 F or below. Keep them in their carton and place them in the coldest part of the refrigerator, not in the door
Is it safe to use eggs that have cracks? Bacteria can enter eggs through cracks in the shell. Never purchase cracked eggs. However, if eggs crack on the way home from the store, break them into a clean container, cover it tightly, keep refrigerated, and use within 2 days. If eggs crack during hard cooking, they are safe. Remember that all eggs should be thoroughly cooked.