Safely coloring, hunting and enjoying Easter eggs

Tips to keep your Easter eggs safe.

Easter eggs.
Photo: Pixabay/Ali Raza.

As the Easter holiday approaches, a common food safety question is: “Are colored, hard boiled Easter eggs safe to eat?”

Eggs always need to be handled carefully to prevent the possibility of foodborne illness. Eggs can appear safe with clean, uncracked shells but they could still contain bacteria called Salmonella. Salmonella bacteria can lead to a foodborne illness and put a damper on your holiday gatherings. So, are hard-boiled, colored eggs for Easter safe to eat? The answer is yes — if you follow food safety guidelines. Michigan State University Extension.

Easter celebrations use eggs in a variety of ways, so whether you are coloring hard-boiled eggs, using eggs for decorations or having an Easter egg hunt, Michigan State University Extension recommends following these tips:

  • When purchasing eggs, open the carton of eggs and make sure there are no cracked eggs inside.
  • Wash hands thoroughly before and after handling eggs.
  • After hard boiling and coloring the eggs, place them back into refrigeration within two hours. The two hours includes the entire time eggs are out of refrigeration for coloring, this includes travel time. If you plan to eat the Easter eggs you decorate, then be sure to use only food-grade dye. One suggestion is to make two sets of colored eggs: one for hiding that will not be consumed and another set for eating.
  • When decorating with eggs, any hard-boiled eggs that are used as decorations for baskets or centerpieces must be back in refrigeration within two hours or disposed of after being out for longer than two hours. An option would be to have one set of eggs for decoration to dispose of, and another set in refrigeration to consume and enjoy.
  • Holding an Easter egg hunt? It is not recommended to consume hard cooked eggs that have been lying on the ground, because they can pick up bacteria, especially if the shells are cracked. If the shells crack, bacteria could contaminate the inside. Eggs should be hidden in places that are protected from dirt, birds, insects, pets and other sources of bacteria. The total time for hiding and hunting eggs should not exceed two hours. The "found" eggs must be washed, re-refrigerated and eaten within seven days of cooking. Again, you could have a batch of eggs just for the hunt and a batch to eat that stays in refrigeration. A safe alternative for egg hunts is to use plastic eggs and fill them with goodies.
  • If the hard-boiled, colored Easter eggs have not been out of refrigeration for more than two hours, they will be safe to eat. Eggs should be used within one week.
  • Lastly, for cooked egg dishes, they should reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, as measured by a food thermometer.

With a little planning, your Easter egg coloring, hunts, and eggs can be food safe and fun for all. For more food safety information and resources, visit MSU Extension's Safe Food & Water website.

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