CINCINNATI—Whether it’s snowy or sunny for Easter weekend, you can still guarantee that families across Greater Cincinnati will be busy with eggs: hunting, dyeing and decorating.
While they celebrate the holidays, it’s key to remember some basic food safety techniques to avoid illness.
UC associate clinical professor of nutritional sciences Rebecca Smith, MEd, says the biggest risk with eggs is the presence of bacteria, like salmonella, that can cause food poisoning. That means you should remember to wash your hands before and after handling eggs and keep them refrigerated.
Smith, a registered dietitian, recommends against using real eggs for outdoor Easter egg hunts.
"After eggs have been cooked, the natural exterior coating on the shell—called bloom—is destroyed,” she says. "Bloom prevents bacteria and dirt from entering the pores of the egg shell, so anything the eggs would come in contact with during an Easter egg hunt could be absorbed into the egg itself.”
She recommends using plastic eggs for outdoor hunts, or using two sets of eggs for your holiday plans: one to decorate and hide, another to eat.
If you’re going to be dyeing Easter eggs, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends using only food-grade dye.
Experts also recommend that cooked eggs stay refrigerated, or brought out only for short periods of time.
Smith says if eggs are left out at room temperature, they will "sweat,” and that moisture increases the potential for bacterial contamination.
"Like other foods, the maximum time out of the refrigerator is two hours, but I wouldn’t take a chance with eggs by leaving them out for this long,” she says.
For general egg safety tips, the USDA recommends:
- Buy eggs from a refrigerated case. Choose eggs with clean, uncracked shells.
- Buy eggs before the "Sell-By" or expiration date on the carton.
- Keep eggs in the carton while in the refrigerator—and store them in the coldest part of the fridge, not on the door.
- Raw eggs in the carton can stay in your refrigerator for three to five weeks from the purchase date. Even if the "Sell-By" date passes, they are still safe to use.
- Wash your hands with warm water and soap before and after handling raw eggs.
- Egg dishes, like deviled eggs or egg salad, should be used within three to four days.