Eggcellent Food Safety Practices at Eastertime
Easter activities often include eggs. During the Spring holiday, eggs are both a decorative craft object and an inspiration for springtime fun and games, and, oh by the way, they are fun to eat too.
Eggs and egg products can be an important part of your diet. Although there are many myths and misconceptions about how to safely cook and handle eggs, all it really requires is care. By following a few simple guidelines, eggs and egg products can play a valuable and economic role in your holiday menu.
To avoid the possibility of foodborne illness, fresh eggs must be handled carefully. Even eggs with clean, uncracked shells may occasionally contain bacteria called Salmonella that can cause an intestinal infection. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working to prevent this problem in eggs by requiring that egg producers obtain chicks that are certified Samonella-free, that the hens are kept in houses that are free from rodents and other Salmonella carrying sources, that the houses are continually tested for Salmonella, and that the eggs are stored at temperatures that retard Salmonella growth. Consumers play a large role in this prevention strategy. In fact, the most effective way to prevent egg-related illness is by knowing how to buy, store, handle and cook eggs—or foods that contain them—safely.
Following these instructions is important for everyone, but especially for those most vulnerable to foodborne disease—children, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems.
- Buy eggs only if sold from a refrigerator or refrigerated case.
- Open the carton and make sure that the eggs are clean and the shells are not cracked.
- Refrigerate promptly.
- Store eggs in their original carton and use them within 4 to 5 weeks.
Keep Everything Clean
Before preparing any food, remember that cleanliness is key!
- Wash hands, utensils, equipment, and kitchen work surfaces with hot, soapy water before and after they come in contact with eggs and egg-containing foods.
Cook eggs thoroughly. Thorough cooking is perhaps the most important step in making sure eggs are safe.
- Cook eggs until both the yolk and the white are firm. Scrambled eggs should not be runny.
Bacteria can multiply in temperatures from 40°F (5°C) to 140°F (60°C), so it’s very important to serve foods safely.
- Serve cooked eggs and egg-containing foods immediately after cooking.
- For buffet-style serving, hot egg dishes should be kept hot, and cold egg dishes kept cold.
- Eggs and egg dishes, such as quiches or soufflés, may be refrigerated for serving later but should be thoroughly reheated to 165°F (74°C) before serving.
- Cooked eggs, including hard-boiled eggs, and egg-containing foods should not sit out for more than 2 hours. Within 2 hours, either reheat or refrigerate.
- Use hard-cooked eggs (in the shell or peeled) within one week after cooking
On the Road
- Cooked eggs for a picnic should be packed in an insulated cooler with enough ice or frozen gel packs to keep them cold.
- Don’t put the cooler in a hot car—carry it in the air-conditioned passenger compartment of the car.
Safe Handling Instructions
To prevent illness from bacteria: keep eggs refrigerated, cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook foods containing eggs thoroughly.
Hard-cooked Easter eggs can help stretch your food dollars. Packed with high-quality protein, vitamins, and minerals, they add good nutrition when included in casseroles, sandwiches, and salads. Remember, hard-cooked eggs should be refrigerated as much as possible between cooking, decorating, and the hunt or the display.
However they are used, eggs are delicious, nutritious, and economical.
For further information, contact
Dorothy C. Lee, C.F.C.S.
Family & Consumer Sciences Agent
UF IFAS Extension Escambia County