If you're planning to decorate Easter eggs, or if you use hard-boiled eggs for your Easter egg hunt, it's a good idea to brush up on your food safety knowledge.
This is true for conventional eggs, organic eggs, local eggs or eggs from your neighborhood farmers' market—even if you're not planning to eat them. Eggs are high in protein, and they have a lot of moisture in them, two factors that make them a target for the bacteria that can make you sick.
Anytime you handle uncooked eggs, you're potentially exposing yourself to, among other things, the Salmonella bacteria, which is the number-one cause of food-related illness.
But uncooked eggs aren't the only potential pitfall. Hiding hard-boiled eggs outdoors exposes them to temperatures that promote the growth of these pathogens, as well as other hazards, pet-related and what-have-you.
Here are a dozen egg safety tips to help make sure you or someone else doesn't end up with a case of food poisoning.
- Keep everything clean. Wash utensils, countertops and other surfaces that eggs come in contact with. That includes washing your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water before and after handling raw eggs or cooked eggs that will be eaten.
- Use one set of eggs for decorating and hunting, and another for eating. Or to be really safe, use plastic eggs for your Easter egg hunt instead of real ones.
- Keep hard-boiled eggs intended for eating in the refrigerator until the last possible minute.
- Check the temperature of your refrigerator with an appliance thermometer to make sure that it is at 40°F or colder.
- Under no circumstances let anyone eat eggs that have been unrefrigerated (whether at room temperature or outside) for more than two hours.
- If you hollow out eggshells by blowing the raw egg through holes in the shell, you could expose yourself to salmonella from raw egg touching your mouth. To be safe, use pasteurized shell eggs. If pasteurized eggs aren't available, sanitize the outside of each egg before it touches your mouth. To do so, wash the egg in hot water and rinse it in a solution of 1 teaspoon chlorine bleach per half cup of water.
- If you plan to use the raw eggs you have blown out of their shells, don't try to store them. Cook and eat them right away! (Here's a great omelet recipe.)
- Dyeing your eggs is at least half the fun of preparing for your Easter egg hunt, but make sure that you only use food-grade dyes. No fabric dyes!
- When preparing hard-boiled eggs for an egg hunt, be on the lookout for cracks in the shells. Even tiny cracks can allow bacteria to contaminate the egg. Eggs that have any cracks whatsoever should be discarded.
- If you're hiding eggs outside, choose the cleanest hiding places you can, and avoid areas that pets or other animals might visit.
- Keep track of time to ensure that the hiding and hunting time don't exceed a cumulative 2 hours. And remember the eggs that are found must be refrigerated right away—or discarded if the 2-hour limit is exceeded.
- Nothing lasts forever! Even hard-boiled eggs that have been refrigerated properly must be eaten within 7 days of cooking.