Extension agent: Take 'eggs-tra' care this spring
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Spring is finally here. Once again, it's time to enjoy picnics and special family gatherings. We use eggs for food and celebrations all year long, but they are especially important for our spring and summertime activities.
Eggs are perishable and need to be handled safely to prevent foodborne illness. Even eggs with clean, uncracked shells can sometimes be contaminated with bacteria, specifically Salmonella Enteritidis.
Bacteria love to grow in moist, protein-rich foods. Since refrigeration slows bacterial growth, it's important to refrigerate eggs and egg-containing foods. Your refrigerator should be at 40 degrees or lower. Use a thermometer to monitor.
Licking the mixing spoon or bowl is tempting when cooking treats, but tasting raw cookie dough or cake batter can be risky because of the possibility of bacteria in the raw eggs used.
Ways to take extra care of Easter eggs:• Always wash hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling any food.
• Beware of cross-contamination. Foodborne illness can occur when kitchen equipment is not thoroughly washed between uses. Countertops and cutting boards should be washed with hot soapy water and then sanitized to kill any germs that may be present.
• Only use eggs that have been refrigerated, and discard eggs that are cracked or dirty, since bacteria could enter the eggs through cracks in the shells.
• When cooking, place a single layer of eggs in a saucepan. Add water to at least one inch above the eggs. Cover the pan, bring the water to a boil, and carefully remove the pan from the heat. Let the eggs stand (18 minutes for extra large eggs, 15 minutes for large, 12 minutes for medium). Immediately run cold water over the eggs. When the eggs are cool enough to handle, place them in an uncovered container in the refrigerator where they can air-dry.
• Color eggs with food-grade egg dyes, liquid food coloring, or fruit-drink powders.
• Hide the eggs in places that are protected from dirt, pets, and other potential sources of bacteria.
• Make sure the "found" eggs are back in the refrigerator or consumed within two hours.
Remember, hard-boiled eggs are only safe to eat for one week after cooking.
If you have questions or concerns about eggs, contact The American Egg Board at aeb.org or The Egg Safety Center at eggsafety.org .
Brenda Phipps is a Victoria County extension assistant.