Planning to use eggs as spring decorations?

Careful handling of dyed, hard-cooked eggs is a must to avoid foodborne illness.

With Easter and other spring celebrations right around the corner, hard-cooked eggs are often used as a part of the decorations or in Easter egg hunts. Food safety can be an issue with hard-cooked eggs. Salmonella is a foodborne illness that is associated with eggs. For this reason there are some food safety precautions that are necessary:

  • When buying eggs, be sure to check for cracks in the shell and dirt on the outside of the egg. Foodborne illness bacteria can invade the cracked eggs or hide in the soil on the outside of the shell.
  • Eggs should be stored in the original container inside the refrigerator box and not in the refrigerator door because the opening and closing of the door makes it difficult to keep the eggs cold.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with hot, soapy water and rinse them before handling eggs for cooking, cooling, dyeing and hiding. Thoroughly wash, rinse and sanitize utensils, counter tops and anything else that the eggs might come in contact with.
  • It is wise to use one set of eggs for dyeing, decorating and hunting and a second set for eating. An even better idea would be to use colorful plastic Easter eggs that contain treats or toys inside for the Easter egg hunt.
  • For the Easter eggs that will be eaten, use only food-grade dyes.
  • If the Easter eggs are going to be eaten after the Easter egg hunt, the eggs should be out of refrigeration for less than two hours. After two hours in the temperature danger zone foodborne illness bacteria will have grown to levels that can potentially make someone sick. Make sure the Easter egg hunt does not last more than two hours, including the time it takes to hide the eggs.
  • Remember where all of the eggs are hidden. Do not hide the eggs where they might come in contact with moisture, soil, pets, wild animals, birds, insects, reptiles or pesticides and lawn chemicals. Be sure to find all of the eggs, or you might have a smelly surprise later.
  • For those eggs that are cracked, throw them away! Do not feed them to pets. Salmonella can make your pets sick as well.
  • The “found” hard-cooked eggs be should washed and refrigerated in their shells and used within one week.
  • Michigan State University Extension recommends that refrigerators should keep food at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder. Use an appliance thermometer to check your refrigerator for accuracy.
  • If you are planning to use the colored eggs as part of your decorations and they will be out of the refrigerator for several hours or days, it is best to throw them away once they have served their decorative purpose.
  • If the plan is to hollow-out eggs for decorations, use pasteurized eggs so you do not run the risk of Salmonella food poisoning from blowing the raw egg through holes poked in the shell. To sanitize the outside of the egg, wash it in hot water and rinse it in one teaspoon of chlorine bleach per half-cup of water.

Following these food safety tips will help you enjoy a safe spring Easter holiday.

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