Learn to be safe when consuming eggs
Spring is the time for picnics and outdoor gatherings, and eggs play a big role in our seasonal celebrations. Did you know that the average American eats 248 eggs each year?
Like any meat product, eggs are perishable and need to be handled safely in order to prevent foodborne illness. Even eggs with clean, undamaged shells can occasionally be contaminated with bacteria.
Prevention of foodborne illness begins with cleanliness. Always wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after food handling and preparation.
Also wash food contact surfaces (like countertops and cutting boards) and cooking equipment (like blenders) thoroughly with hot water and soap between uses to prevent cross contamination.
Bacteria love to grow in moist, protein-rich foods. Refrigeration slows bacterial growth, so it is important to refrigerate eggs and egg-containing foods. Do not leave perishables out at room temperature for more than two hours.
Always cook eggs until the yolks and whites are firm and avoid eating raw cookie dough because bacteria could be lurking in the raw eggs. Use a food thermometer to make sure that cheesecakes, lasagna, baked pasta and egg dishes reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees.
When it comes to Easter eggs, use only eggs that have been refrigerated and discard eggs that are cracked or dirty. To cook, place a single layer of eggs in a saucepan and add water to at least 1 inch above the eggs. Cover the pan, bring the water to a boil and then 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), then 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. Use food-grade dyes like commercial egg dye, liquid food coloring or fruit-drink powders to color eggs.
When handling eggs, be careful not to crack them. Otherwise, bacteria could enter the egg through the cracks in the shell. Hide the eggs in places that are protected from dirt, pets and other potential sources of bacteria.
Make sure the "found" eggs are either back in the refrigerator or consumed within two hours, and remember that hard-boiled eggs are only safe to eat for one week after cooking.
Lastly, beware that switching eggs out from one carton to another is against regulations for safety and tracking reasons. If you find a cracked or dirty egg in a carton, just choose a whole new carton.
Sources: American Egg Board website and fightbac.org
Brenda Anderson is a Victoria County extension assistant.