The holiday of Easter makes many of us think of coloring eggs with our families and having egg hunts. Coloring eggs can be a wonderful family activity for the family to do together. Doing family activities together can build assets in children. However, eggs can present food safety concerns and food borne illnesses. These tips can help you keep your family safe while having fun coloring eggs and enjoying them later.
· Consider using pasteurized eggs when coloring with young children or others, who are at higher risk for foodborne illnesses. Pasteurized eggs are available in some supermarkets. They have a capital “P” in a circle on them to let you know they are pasteurized. Being pasteurized reduces the risk of foodborne illnesses.
· Wash your hands thoroughly before handling eggs and at every step including cooking, cooling, dyeing, and after the hunt. Wash your hands even if using pasteurized eggs.
· Color only cooked un-cracked eggs and eggs that are clean. If eggs crack during dyeing, while on display or during the hunt discard them as bacteria can have entered the egg.
· Use only food-grade egg dyes (kits in stores are OK). You can use liquid food coloring and fruit-drink powders. You can also use foods to naturally dye eggs such as beets, onion skins, spinach leaves, blueberries and/or coffee.
· Be sure to refrigerate eggs immediately after cooking, coloring, and the egg hunt.
· Store eggs in a clean container, not in the egg carton, which may be contaminated with germs.
· Discard any eggs that are out of the refrigerator more than 2 hours. This includes eggs used for hiding, decorating, etc. Discard cracked eggs too.
· Using plastic eggs for decorations or egg hunts can help avoid many food safety concerns.
· Use plastic eggs for your egg hunt but carefully consider where you hide eggs. Avoid areas where eggs might come into contact with dirt, pets, other animals or insects, or lawn chemicals. Always wash your child’s hands after the egg hunt. If you use real eggs wash the shells with soap and water before cracking and eating.
· Hard cooked eggs that are properly refrigerated and not cracked will keep for up to one week.
Following these egg safety tips will help you prevent any food borne illnesses, which might be caused by eggs. Enjoy coloring eggs and having fun hiding and hunting eggs as family activities. (References: USDA Fact Sheet on eggs, American Egg Board at www.aeb.org)
Pat Brinkman is the Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator for Ohio State University Fayette County.