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Extension advises keeping Easter eggs safe

By April Hill

Regional Extension Agent

Easter is just over a week away, and many children will find colored eggs nestled side by side with chocolate bunnies in cheerful baskets or lurking in hiding places waiting to be discovered.

With this in mind, the Franklin County Extension has some advice to share when it comes to keeping Easter safe.

Dr. Jean Weese, a food scientist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, recommends always handling eggs properly to prevent food-borne illness.

“Throw raw eggs with cracked shells away; however, even eggs with clean, un-cracked shells can occasionally be contaminated with bacteria,” Weese warned. “Proper cooking will destroy the harmful bacteria, and proper handling will prevent bacteria from developing and multiplying.”

Cleanliness, Weese said, is the key.

“Wash hands with hot, soapy water before handling eggs and again after placing eggs in the boiling water,” Weese said. “Bacteria may have gotten on your hands from the shell of the eggs, and if you don’t wash your hands, you will contaminate clean eggs when you touch them again.”

Kitchen surfaces and cooking equipment also should be cleaned thoroughly, Weese added; otherwise, cross-contamination can spread bacteria from one food or surface to another.

Here is a step-by-step method for boiling those eggs before dyeing them:

  • To reduce the risk of cracked shells in hard-boiled eggs, place a single layer of eggs in a saucepan.
  • Add water to at least one inch above the eggs.
  • Cover the pan and bring water to a boil.
  • Boil eggs at least two or three minutes, then remove pan from heat.
  • Let eggs stand in hot water for about 15 minutes for large eggs and 12 minutes for medium eggs.  
  • Cooling eggs immediately after they are hard-cooked not only allows them to be peeled easier but also eliminates the green ring that can form around the yolks.
  • If you don’t want to peel the eggs and want to color them for Easter, place them in an uncovered container in the refrigerator and allow them to dry.

When dyeing eggs, be careful not to crack them, Weese said, as bacteria can enter the eggs through the cracks. Use food-grade dyes, such as commercial egg dyes, liquid food coloring or fruit drink powders.

Hard-cooked eggs should not sit out unrefrigerated for more than two hours.

Keep eggs refrigerated until you put them into Easter baskets. Store eggs on a shelf inside the refrigerator rather than on the refrigerator door so they stay fully chilled.

Do not use hard-cooked eggs for hiding. Use plastic eggs and replace them with the hard cooked ones as soon as the hunt is over. If eggs are cracked or broken during the hunt, children may be disappointed when you have to throw them away; therefore, it is better to keep the hard-cooked eggs refrigerated until the hunt.

Then, all can sit down and enjoy a safe Easter egg feast.