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Keep Your Easter Eggs Safe to Eat

Decorated Easter Eggs

Nashville, Ark. – One of the most enjoyable activities at Easter time is to dye and decorate eggs to hide. I can remember as a child, Easter was a time when my extended family (aunts, uncles, and cousins) got together to share a meal and later hide and hunt Easter eggs. When I was a child, I guess plastic eggs were available, but we didn’t have any. I loved to dye and decorate the eggs. Back then, I didn’t worry about food safety. Mom probably took care to make sure our eggs were safe to eat. Today, I still enjoy decorating eggs. While my children have outgrown the hiding and hunting of eggs, I enjoy using them in centerpieces and usually make deviled eggs after Easter. Here are some tips for ensuring that your Easter eggs will be safe to eat.

            The risk of getting a food borne illness from eggs is low. However, the nutrients that make eggs a high-quality food for humans are also a good growth medium for bacteria. Bacteria is everywhere and in order for it to grow and multiply to a dangerous food safety level it must have certain mediums; time, temperature and moisture. Salmonella is the bacteria that may be found in eggs. You can reduce the risk of food borne illness by proper handling of eggs when you are preparing and serving them.

            Eggs are frequently handled at Easter time and each handling occasion is one more chance that the eggs might come into contact with bacteria. To avoid bacterial contamination, wash your hands thoroughly before you handle eggs at every step including cooking, cooling and dyeing. Refrigerate hard-cooked eggs in their cartons if you won’t be coloring them right after cooking and cooling. Refrigerate them again right after you dye them and after you display them.

            Color only uncracked eggs. If you want to eat your dyed eggs later, use food coloring or specially made food-grade egg dyes dissolved in water that is warmer than the eggs. If any eggs crack during dyeing or while on display, discard them along with any eggs that have been out of refrigeration for more than 2 hours. If you keep hard-cooked eggs out of refrigeration for many hours or several days for a decoration or for hiding, cook extra eggs for eating. Either discard the eggs that have been left out or use them only for display.

            If you hide eggs, consider hiding places carefully. Avoid areas where the eggs might come into contact with dirt, pets, wild animals, birds, reptiles, insects or lawn chemicals. Refrigerate the hidden eggs again after they have been found.

            Many people will enjoy deviled eggs at potluck dinners at Easter time. Deviled eggs should be handled in much the same way as your hardcooked Easter eggs. Pack your deviled eggs in an ice chest with ice packed around them and put them in the refrigerator as soon as possible. Leave eggs in the cooler or refrigerator until ready to serve. Do not leave them out for longer than 2 hours. This time includes preparation, transporting and serving. Any leftover deviled eggs should be discarded if not eaten with 2 hours.

            Easter is a time for celebrating rebirth and enjoying time with family and friends. Don’t let a food borne illness ruin your celebration. For more information on food safety issues, contact the Howard County Extension Office at 870-845-7517 or visit our office located on the second floor of the courthouse. You can also contact the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline at 800-535-4555 or visit the web site www.fightbac.org to learn more about food safety.

Recipe of the Week

            Are you expecting a crowd for Easter dinner? If so, here is a great recipe to prepare. This recipe is easy to make, uses fresh fruit and is delicious!

Layered Fruit Salad

3 (9-inch) bananas or 3 cups sliced

2 (14-ounce) cans pineapple chunks in own juice

4 cups seedless grapes (1 ¼ pounds), sliced in half

Fresh mint and/or kiwi fruit, sliced (optional)

  1. Wash your hands with soap and hot water.
  2. Assemble these supplies: measuring cups, 2 medium colanders, cutting board, paring knife, 4-quart trifle dish and plastic wrap.
  3. Slice the bananas into the bottom of the trifle dish. Pour the pineapple chunks and juice over the bananas.
  4. Arrange a layer of grapes over the pineapple.
  5. Layer the strawberries over the grapes.
  6. Cover the salad with plastic wrap. Refrigerate it until serving time.
  7. If desired, garnish the salad with washed fresh mint leaves or sliced kiwi fruit.

Makes 22 servings

Nutrients per serving: Calories: 58; Sodium: 1 milligram; Carbohydrate: 15 grams; Dietary Fiber: 2 grams; Protein: ½ gram; Fat: 0 grams

By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517
jince@uaex.edu

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