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Handle Easter Eggs Safely For Happy Holidays
By Allison Powe
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Dying and hunting Easter eggs can be an entertaining activity, but don't let the holiday excitement take precedence over handling food safely.
Dr. Melissa Mixon, extension human nutrition specialist at Mississippi State University, said eating Easter eggs is not safe unless the eggs have been handled with the utmost care.
"When planning to eat Easter eggs, select eggs with a good expiration date printed on the carton and from a refrigerated display case at the grocery store. Inspect the eggs to make sure they are clean with uncracked shells," Mixon said.
Mixon advised grocery shoppers to bring a cooler to place eggs and other perishable items in if the trip home from the store will take longer than 30 minutes or if the temperature outside is hot. Refrigerate eggs as soon as possible after arriving home.
"Cook eggs using a slow boiling method to prevent cracking the eggs during the cooking process," Mixon said.
Eggs that are intended to be eaten should not stay unrefrigerated for more than a total of two hours. Eat hard-cooked eggs within one week after cooking, whether they have been in the shell or peeled.
"Two hours is not a long time to dye, hide and hunt eggs. To avoid the risk of food-borne illness, such as salmonella, keep eggs in a refrigerator," Mixon said.
Mixon recommended hiding eggs away from bacteria sources if you are planning to use them later.
"Hide eggs in places away from dirt and pets, and don't forget to refrigerate them as soon as they are found," she said.
"If you ever have any doubt about the length of time an egg - peeled or not - has been unrefrigerated, or the overall safety of an egg, do not eat it," Mixon said.
A good alternative to hunting hard-cooked eggs that are intended to be eaten later is hiding plastic eggs instead.
"Plastic eggs are fun for children to find because you can put candy or money inside them," Mixon said.
"A lot of people like to blow out eggs and dye the shells, but this is not a good idea. The person who blows out the egg runs the risk of getting a food-borne illness when their mouth comes in contact with the raw egg," Mixon said. "The USDA also recommends against using eggs from blown out shells because they are likely to be contaminated with germs," she said.
Mixon also warned against using egg shells as gelatin molds.
"The idea of making a gelatin egg is cute, but there is no way to sterilize the inside of the egg shell. Gelatin is not safe when it has been exposed to the bacteria inside the egg shell. I recommend using a plastic egg mold instead," Mixon said.
"Easter is a fun time as long as you don't get sick. Most of the time it's probably best to dye Easter eggs you don't plan to eat because they are likely to stay at room temperature too long and possibly become contaminated with bacteria," Mixon said.