DETROIT (WWJ) – If you’re planning an Easter egg hunt or cooking eggs for your Passover Seder, USDA has important advice to help you keep your family safe from foodborne illness throughout the Spring celebrations.
Susan Conley, director of Food Safety Education for USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, said hard-boiled eggs for Easter and Passover celebrations should be prepared with care.
If you plan to eat the Easter eggs you decorate, be sure to use only food grade dye. Some people even make two sets of eggs — one for decorating and hiding, another for eating — while others use plastic eggs for hiding.
For an Easter egg hunt, avoid cracking the egg shells. If the shells crack, bacteria could enter and contaminate the egg inside. Also, try to hide eggs in places that are protected from dirt, pets and other bacteria sources. Conley said it’s especially important to keep hard-boiled eggs chilled in the refrigerator until just before the hunt.
The total time for hiding and hunting eggs should be no more than two hours. Then be sure to refrigerate the “found” eggs right away until you eat them. Eggs found hours later or the next day should be thrown out, not eaten.
Eggs also play and important role on the Seder plate during Passover celebrations. If that egg sits out at room temperature for more than two hours, it should not be eaten. Since the hard-boiled eggs that are usually served to each person as part of the special dinner are meant to be eaten, keep those eggs in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
When shell eggs are hard-boiled, the protective coating is washed away, leaving open pores in the shell where harmful bacteria could enter. Be sure to refrigerate eggs within two hours of cooking and use them within a week. Check your refrigerator temperature with an appliance thermometer and adjust the refrigerator temperature to 40°F or below.
For egg safety, to stay healthy and avoid foodborne illness, USDA advises:
- Always buy eggs from a refrigerated case. Choose eggs with clean, uncracked shells
- Buy eggs before the “Sell-By” or “EXP” (expiration) date on the carton
- Take eggs straight home from the grocery store and refrigerate them right away. Check to be sure your refrigerator is set at 40°F or below. Don’t take eggs out of the carton to put them in the refrigerator — the carton protects them. Keep the eggs in the coldest part of the refrigerator — not on the door.
- Raw shell eggs in the carton can stay in your refrigerator for three to five weeks from the purchase date. Although the “Sell-By” date might pass during that time, the eggs are still safe to use.
- Always wash your hands with warm water and soap before and after handling raw eggs. To avoid cross-contamination, you should also wash forks, knives, spoons and all counters and other surfaces that touch the eggs with hot water and soap.
- Don’t keep raw or cooked eggs out of the refrigerator more than two hours.
- Egg dishes such as deviled eggs or egg salad should be used within 3 to 4 days.