Easter is a time for gathering with friends and family and a fun time for children with the always exciting Easter egg hunt! It is estimated that about 180 million eggs are purchased each year in the U.S. for Easter.
When you’re decorating, cooking, or hiding eggs, extra care is needed around Easter – as eggs are handled a great deal more than usual and a food illness can occur.
Egg Food Illness from Salmonella
Poultry may carry bacteria such as Salmonella that can contaminate the inside of eggs before the shells are formed. Eggs can also become contaminated from the droppings of poultry through the laying process or from the environment (e.g., contaminated poultry feed or bedding).
In most cases, Salmonella food illness lasts 4–7 days and people recover without antibiotic treatment. Symptoms include:
- Abdominal cramps
Older adults, infants, and people with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS, diabetes, or an organ transplant, may get a more serious illness that can even be life-threatening.
Egg Food Safety Tips
When you’re decorating, cooking or hiding Easter eggs, extra care is needed as eggs are handled a great deal more than usual around Easter. Follow these food safety tips:
- Be sure and inspect the eggs before purchasing them, making sure they are not dirty or cracked. Dangerous bacteria may enter a cracked egg.
- Store eggs in their original cartons in the refrigerator rather than the refrigerator door.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with hot soapy water and rinse them before handling the eggs when cooking, cooling, dyeing and hiding them.
- If you’re having an Easter egg hunt, consider hiding places carefully. Avoid areas where the eggs might come into contact with pets, wild animals, birds, reptiles, insects or lawn chemicals.
- Make sure you find all the eggs you’ve hidden and then refrigerate them. Discard cracked eggs.
- As long as the eggs are NOT out of refrigeration over two hours, they will be safe to eat.
- Learn about proper hygiene, cross contamination, cold and hot food safety, foodborne pathogens, and best practices to prevent foodborne illness.
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Easter Egg – Food Safety FAQs
Q: Are Easter Eggs Safe to Eat?
Yes, as long as you store them in the refrigerator and hide them in places above the ground and away from bacteria. However, if they have been out at room temperature for more than two hours, discard them.
Better yet, minimize health risks by cooking two sets of eggs. Use one set for an Easter egg hunt or centerpiece display, and the other for eating. That way, the eggs you eat can stay properly refrigerated. Also consider using plastic eggs for hiding.
Q: Are Eggs OK to Use after the “Sell By” Date?
Eggs should be purchased before the “sell by” date and used within three to five weeks of the purchase date. Store eggs in the refrigerator at less than 40°F. The egg rack on the refrigerator door is not the best place to store eggs because the temperature is warmer there than on the interior shelves.
Egg Recipes: Playing It Safe
- Homemade ice cream and eggnog are safe if you do one of the following:
- Use a cooked egg-milk mixture. Heat it gently and use a food thermometer to ensure that it reaches 160 °F.
- Use pasteurized eggs or egg products.
- Dry meringue shells, divinity candy, and 7-minute frosting are safe — these are made by combining hot sugar syrup with beaten egg whites. However, avoid icing recipes using uncooked eggs or egg whites.
- Meringue-topped pies should be safe if baked at 350 °F for about 15 minutes. But avoid chiffon pies and fruit whips made with raw, beaten egg whites — instead, substitute pasteurized dried egg whites, whipped cream, or a whipped topping.
- Adapting Recipes: If your recipe calls for uncooked eggs, make it safe by doing one of the following:
- Heating the eggs in one of the recipe’s other liquid ingredients over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 160 °F. Then, combine it with the other ingredients and complete the recipe. Or use pasteurized eggs or egg products.
- Using pasteurized eggs or egg products.
- Egg products – such as liquid or frozen egg substitute, are pasteurized, so it’s safe to use them in recipes that will be not be cooked. However, it’s best to use egg products in a recipe that will be cooked, especially if you are serving pregnant women, babies, young children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems.
Hard-Boiled Egg – Food Safety FAQs
Q: How Do I Hard Boil an Egg?
Place eggs in saucepan large enough to hold them in single layer. Add cold water to cover eggs by 1 inch. Heat over high heat just to boiling.
Remove from burner. Cover pan. Let eggs sit in hot water about 12 minutes for large eggs (9 minutes for medium eggs; 15 minutes for extra large).
Q: Do Hard-Boiled Eggs Spoil Faster than Fresh Eggs?
Yes. When eggs are hard boiled, the protective coating is washed away, making it easier for bacteria to permeate the shell and contaminate the egg. Hard-boiled eggs should be refrigerated within two hours of cooking and used within a week.
Q: Why Is the Inside of a Hard-Boiled Egg Green?
A green ring on a hard-boiled yolk is a result of overcooking. It’s caused by sulfur and iron compounds in the egg reacting on the yolk’s surface. The green color can also be caused by a high amount of iron in the cooking water. The green-colored yolk is safe to eat.
Egg Safety Additional Information
- Egg Storage Chart
Details on refrigerating and freezing raw eggs, cooked eggs, and egg dishes.
- Egg Safety and Eating Out
Practical things that you can do to keep your family safe.
- Tips to Reduce Your Risk of Salmonella from Eggs (CDC)
If eggs are eaten raw or undercooked, Salmonella bacteria can cause illness.
- Playing it Safe With Eggs: What Consumers Need to Know (FDA)
How to buy, cook, serve, store, and transport fresh eggs to avoid salmonella poisoning. From Consumer Information about Egg Safety.
- Egg Products and Food Safety (USDA)
How to use liquid, frozen, and dried egg products safely.
- Shell Eggs from Farm to Table (USDA)
Answers to questions on eggs, from how often a hen lays an egg to the safety of Easter eggs to egg storage guideline