The Easter holiday means more egg handling, especially for children. It is important to follow safe handling tips when preparing, storing and serving eggs to keep the holiday free of foodborne illnesses.
Eggs can cause food poisoning because salmonella is a common bacteria found in uncooked and unbroken eggs. Salmonella can be present on both the outside and the inside of eggs.
The FDA has put regulations in place to help prevent contamination of eggs on the farm and during shipping and storage, but consumers also play a key role in preventing illnesses linked to eggs.
Here are some important food safety tips to remember during and after the Easter eggs festivities:
Inspect the eggs
- Cracked eggs should not be consumed, as dangerous bacteria may have entered through the crack.
Wash your hands, counters, and utensils
- Everybody, including children, should wash their hands with soap and water before and after handling eggs. This includes prepping, cooking, cooling, dyeing, hiding, hunting and peeling them.
- Thoroughly wash utensils, countertops and anything else the eggs come into contact with.
The safest way to boil eggs
- Place eggs in a pan of room-temperature water with the eggs covered with at least one inch of water.
- When the water is at a full boil, remove the pan from the heat source and let the eggs stay in the water for between 12-18 minutes, depending on the size of the eggs.
- After the eggs have set for the appropriate amount of time, run cold water over them.
- When the eggs are cool enough to handle, place them in the refrigerator.
Refrigerate eggs at 40 degrees F or below
- Store eggs inside the fridge, not the fridge door.
- Hard-cooked, refrigerated eggs can be stored for up to one week and safely consumed.
- Boiled eggs — and foods containing boiled eggs — can be out of refrigeration for two hours (when it’s under 90 degrees F) and still be safe to eat.
- Even though eggs can show signs of spoilage when they’re past the best-by date, it’s important to remember that before those dates eggs that harbor Salmonella taste, smell, and appear exactly the same as safe eggs.
- The total time for hiding and hunting eggs should not exceed two hours. If the hidden eggs were out longer than two hours they should be discarded.
- Make sure hidden eggs did not come in contact with pets, wild animals, birds or lawn chemicals. Eating eggs that have been on the ground is not recommended.
- If you are planning to use colored eggs as decorations for centerpieces, etc., and the eggs will be out of refrigeration for many hours or several days, discard them after they have served their decorative purpose.
The best way to keep your family safe from foodborne pathogens, is to follow the four basic food safety rules — clean, separate, cook and chill.
“Clean” reminds consumers to wash their hands and kitchen surfaces often during cooking. “Separate” prevents cross-contamination by encouraging consumers to keep their raw meats and poultry away from other foods, especially raw foods an vegetable trays that will be eaten raw. “Cook” informs consumers of the necessity of cooking their meat, poultry, fish and egg products to the right internal temperature. “Chill” highlights the importance of prompt refrigeration of food. Focusing on those behaviors provides consumers with clear steps they can take to protect themselves and their families from food poisoning.
Ham is an Easter staple for many families, but there are some unique challenges to cooking it safely.
Here are some ham cooking safety tips from the USDA:
- Both whole or half, cooked, vacuum-packaged hams packaged in federally inspected plants and canned hams can be eaten cold, right out of the package.
- If you want to reheat these cooked hams, set the oven no lower than 325 degrees F and heat to an internal temperature of 140 degrees F as measured with a food thermometer.
- Unpackaged, cooked ham is potentially contaminated with pathogens. For cooked hams that have been repackaged in any other location outside the processing plant or for leftover cooked ham, heat to 165 degrees F.
- Spiral-cut cooked hams are also safe to eat cold, if they have been held at proper temperatures. These hams are best served cold because heating sliced whole or half hams can dry out the meat and cause the glaze to melt and run off the meat. If reheating is desired, hams that were packaged in processing plants under USDA inspection must be heated to 140 degrees F as measured with a food thermometer (165 degrees F for leftover spiral-cut hams or ham that has been repackaged in any other location outside the plant). To reheat a spiral-sliced ham in a conventional oven, cover the entire ham, or individual portions, with heavy aluminum foil and heat at 325 degrees F for about 10 minutes per pound. Individual slices may also be warmed in a skillet or microwave, but must reach 165 degrees F.
- Cook-before-eating hams or fresh hams must reach 145 degrees F (with a 3-minute rest time) to be safely cooked before serving. Cook in an oven set no lower than 325 degrees F. Hams can also be safely cooked in a microwave oven, other countertop appliances, and on the stove. Consult a cookbook for specific methods and timing.
- Country hams can be soaked for 4 to 12 hours or longer in the refrigerator to reduce the salt content before cooking. Then they can be cooked by boiling or baking. Follow the manufacturer’s cooking instructions and be sure the internal temperature reaches the appropriate temperature.
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