Like meat, poultry, seafood and produce, eggs are perishable and need to be handled properly to prevent foodborne illness. Occasionally, eggs with clean, un-cracked shells can be contaminated with bacteria.
Barbara Ingham, University of Wisconsin-Extension food science specialist, offers tips to help you enjoy eggs and avoid foodborne illness during your spring celebrations.
Have clean hands. Always wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food, especially raw eggs. “Take those few extra seconds to wash your hands after cracking eggs, and before continuing with your other cooking chores,” said Ingham.
Practice proper refrigeration. Bacteria love to grow in moist, protein-rich foods. Refrigeration slows bacterial growth, so it’s important to refrigerate eggs and egg-containing foods. “Your refrigerator should be at 40 degrees or below,” said Ingham. “Store eggs in the carton, not on a rack on the door of your refrigerator where they will warm up quickly each time the door opens.”
Eat fully cooked eggs. Whether you like your breakfast eggs scrambled or fried, always cook eggs until the yolks and whites are firm. Egg-based casseroles should reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees, as measured with a thermometer.
Avoid eating raw eggs. Licking a spoon or tasting raw cookie dough from a mixing bowl can be risky, advised Ingham. Bacteria could be lurking in the raw eggs. Prepared cookie dough that you buy in the grocery refrigerator case is made with pasteurized eggs; choose this type of dough if young family members will be helping to work with raw cookie dough.
Decorating dos and don’ts. Use food-grade dyes like liquid food coloring or fruit-drink powders. When handling eggs, be careful not to crack them. Otherwise, bacteria could enter the egg through the cracks in the shell.
Refrigerate hard-cooked Easter eggs. Keep eggs chilled on a shelf inside the refrigerator, not in the refrigerator door. Hide the eggs in places that are protected from dirt, pets and other potential sources of bacteria. Remember the two-hour rule, and make sure the eggs are back in the refrigerator or consumed within two hours. Hard-boiled eggs are only safe to eat for one week after cooking.
To learn more about keeping food safe, contact Barbara Ingham at 608-263-7383 or firstname.lastname@example.org.