Handle Easter eggs with care

Richard Bogren, Reames, Elizabeth S.

News Release Distributed 04/15/11

Although dyed Easter eggs may look like decorations, they are a perishable food. Improper care of perishable foods can trigger foodborne illness, says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames.

Hard-cooked eggs spoil faster than fresh eggs because the protective coating is washed away, Reames says. This leaves the pores in the shell bare for bacteria to enter and contaminate the egg.

“Hard-cooked eggs should be refrigerated within two hours of cooking and used within a week,” she says.

Reames offers these additional tips for Easter egg safety:

– Only use eggs that have been refrigerated, and discard eggs that are cracked or dirty.

– Store eggs in the carton in the refrigerator with the large end up to help maintain quality. According to the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, fresh, uncooked eggs in the shell can be kept refrigerated in their cartons for three to five weeks beyond the “sell-by” date.

– Wash your hands thoroughly before you handle eggs at every step, including cooking, cooling and dyeing.

– When cooking eggs, place them in a single layer in a saucepan. Add water to at least 1 inch above the eggs, cover the pan, bring the water to a boil and immediately remove the pan from the heat. Let the eggs stand (18 minutes for extra large eggs, 15 minutes for large, 12 minutes for medium), then immediately run cold water over the eggs. When the eggs are cool enough to handle, place them in an uncovered container in the refrigerator where they can air dry.

– When decorating eggs, be sure to use food-grade dyes. It is safe to use commercial egg dyes, liquid food coloring and fruit-drink powders. When handling eggs, be careful not to crack them. Otherwise, bacteria could enter the egg through the cracks in the shell.

– Keep hard-cooked Easter eggs chilled on a shelf inside the refrigerator, not in the refrigerator door.

– If you hide eggs, hide them in places that are protected from dirt, pets and other potential sources of bacteria.

– Remember the two-hour rule, and make sure the “found” eggs are back in the refrigerator or consumed within two hours.

– Don’t forget that hard-boiled eggs are only safe to eat for one week after cooking.

Eggs supply high-quality protein, are an excellent source of minerals and vitamins and are low in calories, Reames says. One large egg provides only 72 calories.

“Eggs are low in saturated fat but are high in cholesterol – 186 milligrams in one large egg,” she says. “The cholesterol is found in the egg yolk, not the egg white. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend keeping dietary cholesterol to less than 300 mg a day.”

Enjoy your leftover eggs by making egg salad using mostly the whites of your Easter eggs, Reames says. Use three whites to one yolk, add plenty of diced celery or green pepper and use fat-free or reduced-fat mayonnaise.

Some people enjoy pickling their leftover eggs in vinegar and pickling spices, spicy cider or juice from pickles or pickled beets. USDA recommends that home-prepared pickled eggs be kept refrigerated and used within seven days. Home canning of pickled eggs is not recommended.

Rick Bogren

4/15/2011 11:22:23 PM
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