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Egg Safety

Easter eggs in nest on grunge wooden background

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easter is just a few weeks away, and many children will find colored eggs nestled side by side with chocolate bunnies in cheerful baskets or lurking in hiding places awaiting to be discovered.  Always handle eggs properly to prevent foodborne illness.  Consider the following when planning on buying eggs for dyeing and for keeping a few days before Easter.

 What should you consider when purchasing eggs?

Always buy eggs from a refrigerated case. Choose eggs with clean, uncracked shells. Don’t buy out of date eggs. The USDA grade shield on the carton means that the eggs were graded for quality and checked for weight under the supervision of a trained USDA grader. State agencies monitor compliance for egg packers who do not use the USDA grading service.

What does the date on the egg carton mean?

Egg cartons with the USDA grade mark must display a “Julian date”*, the date the eggs were packed. Although not required, they may also carry an expiration date beyond which the eggs should not be sold, but are still safe to eat. On cartons with the USDA grade mark, this date cannot exceed 30 days after the eggs were packed in the carton. Depending on the retailer, the expiration date may be less than 30 days. Eggs packed in cartons without the USDA grade mark are governed by the laws of their states.

How should eggs be refrigerated?

Refrigerate raw shell eggs in their cartons on the middle or lower inside shelf, not on the door, and away from any meat that might drip juices or any raw produce that might contact eggshells. Cover or wrap well any egg mixtures or leftover cooked egg dishes. For all perishable foods, including eggs and dishes containing eggs, allow no more than 2 hours at room temperature for preparation and serving, 30 minutes to 1 hour when it’s 85°F or hotter without refrigeration.

How long are eggs that have been refrigerated, safe to eat?

Raw eggs maintain their freshness for 4-5 weeks after purchase if kept refrigerated continuously.

How long are hard cooked eggs that have been refrigerated, safe to eat?

A hard cooked egg, if keep in its shell, can be safely refrigerated for up to one week.

I just realized I left the egg carton on the kitchen counter overnight. Are the eggs safe to use?

Temperature fluctuation is critical to safety. After eggs are refrigerated, it is important that they stay that way. A cold egg left out at room temperature can sweat, facilitating the growth of bacteria. Refrigerated eggs should not be left out more than 2 hours.

COOKING WITH EGGS

What is an adequate temperature to cook an egg?

Eggs you serve immediately at home need to be cooked to 145 degrees and if serving in a serving line in a commercial kitchen they must reach 155 degrees.  Please do not use raw eggs unless they are pasteurized in homemade ice cream because people can become infected with salmonella from raw eggs.  Mix the eggs with a little milk and sugar and heat quickly to 160 degrees to a custard state and then cool down and mix with your other ingredients when making homemade ice cream if you like that rich taste eggs give it.

How does Salmonella infect eggs?

Salmonella bacteria are found in the intestinal tracts of animals, birds, reptiles, insects and humans. Salmonella may be found on the outside of the egg shell before the egg is washed or it may be found inside the egg if the hen was infected. It is estimated that one egg in 20,000 eggs may contain Salmonella  Eggs contain natural antimicrobial substances in the egg white, and all eggs are washed and sanitized before they are packed. Egg recipes properly prepared in individual servings and promptly eaten are rarely a problem. Inadequate refrigeration, improper handling and insufficient cooking are all factors that have contributed to disease outbreaks. Salmonella is destroyed by heat. Eggs that have been handled and cooked properly should not cause human illness.

What usually causes salmonellosis?

Salmonellosis outbreaks are most often associated with animal foods, including chicken, eggs, pork and cheese, but have also been reported related to cantaloupe, tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts, orange juice and cereal among other foods. Human carriers play a big role in transmitting some types of salmonellosis. Salmonella bacteria can easily spread from one food to another and from  foodhandler to food if improper handwashing  is practiced.

The majority of reported salmonellosis outbreaks involving eggs or egg-containing foods have occurred in food service kitchens and were the result of inadequate refrigeration, improper handling and insufficient cooking. If not properly handled, Salmonella bacteria can double every 20 minutes and a single bacterium can multiply into more than a million in six hours. Properly prepared egg recipes served in individual portions and promptly eaten are rarely a problem. You can ensure that your eggs will maintain their high quality and safety by using good hygiene, cooking, refrigeration and handling practices.

Are eggs the only source of Salmonella bacteria?

No. Salmonella bacteria are widely found in nature and easily spread. The bacteria can be found in the intestinal tracts of animals, birds, reptiles, insects and people. While the egg itself may not be contaminated when you buy it, it can become contaminated from various sources, such as hands, pets, other foods and kitchen equipment, too.

When dyeing eggs for Easter, be careful not to crack them because 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 2 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.

A really good idea, if the kids plan to eat their eggs is not to use the hard cooked eggs for hiding but replace with plastic eggs and save the hard cooked one for them to eat later. 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.

 

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