Archive for Wednesday, April 11, 2001

Take care with eggs at Easter

April 11, 2001


Is it safe to eat hard-cooked, dyed Easter eggs?

Hard-cooked eggs hidden for an egg hunt should not be out of refrigeration for more than two hours if you intend to eat them later.

Eggs may become cracked and dirty from handling while hiding and collecting. Hard-cooking removes some of the protective oil coating that processors spray on the shells, so bacteria can enter the egg through the pores or cracks.

As an alternative, use plastic eggs for egg-hunt activities.

I like to use empty eggshells for egg decorating. Can I still do this?

Sure. The American Egg Board offers these tips on emptying raw eggs:

Use a long needle to make a small hole in the small end of the egg and a larger hole in the large end.

Carefully chip away bits of shell around the large hole until it's the size of a penny.

Stick the needle into the yolk to break it.

Shake the egg's large end over a bowl until the contents come out.

Rinse the shell with cool water and let it dry.

Or you can use another method: Make a slightly smaller hole in the large end of the egg only. Press the bulb of a kitchen baster to expel the air and insert it into the egg. Release the bulb to siphon out the shell contents. Rinse egg and let dry.

Why is egg safety a concern when we've eaten raw eggs in various recipes for years?

Fresh eggs with shells intact were once thought to be sterile inside. Today we know that these eggs may contain harmful salmonella bacteria.

While the number of eggs affected is less than 1 in 10,000, there have been scattered outbreaks of food-borne illness due to this organism in the past several years. And fresh, unbroken shell eggs are now considered to be on the growing list of potentially hazardous foods.

What can you do to avoid illness from salmonella?

Avoid eating raw eggs or foods that contain them. This includes "health-food" milkshakes with raw eggs, traditional Caesar salad dressing, hollandaise sauce, homemade mayonnaise, homemade ice cream or eggnog made from recipes in which the raw egg ingredients are not cooked.

Follow these standards to properly cook eggs:

Fried eggs: Cook two to three minutes on each side.

Scrambled eggs: Cook until firm throughout.

Poached eggs: Cook five minutes in boiling water.

Soft-cooked eggs: Cook in the shell seven minutes. (Avoid those three-minute eggs completely.)

Use updated recipes and preparation methods such as commercial pasteurized eggs, egg substitutes or a cooked egg base such as a custard. Egg mixtures are safe if they reach 160 degrees.

Who should be extra careful to avoid undercooked eggs?

The risk of food-borne illness from eating raw eggs is particularly serious for people who are vulnerable to bacterial infections.

These people include the elderly, whose immune systems weaken with age; infants, whose immune systems are not fully developed; chronically ill people, who have weakened immune systems; and pregnant women, because of risk to the fetus.

Elderly people are 10 times more likely to die of food-borne illnesses than younger adults. Because of susceptibility of elderly people to salmonella infections, nursing homes must serve pasteurized eggs.

What is the best way to store raw eggs?

Unless you seldom open the refrigerator door, it's best to store your eggs in their original carton on an inside shelf of the refrigerator. Repeated use of the door causes temperature fluctuations.

The egg carton helps keep the eggs from picking up odors and flavors from other foods in your refrigerator. It also helps prevent the loss of carbon dioxide and moisture from the eggs a particularly important factor if you have a frost-free refrigerator.

Store eggs with the large end up to keep the yolk centered.

The oil coating that seals the shell's pores helps to prevent bacteria from entering the egg and reduces moisture loss.

Eggs refrigerated in their cartons will keep for four to five weeks beyond the pack date without significant quality loss.

According to the American Egg Board, the pack date is usually a number from 1 to 365 representing the day of the year starting with 1 (Jan. 1) and ending with 365 (Dec. 31).

To separate eggs, I pass the egg yolk back and forth from shell half to shell half. Is this the best way to separate eggs?

Not really. Bacteria are so minute that it's possible some may be present in the shell pores even after washing and sanitizing.

So it's best to avoid mixing yolks and whites with the shells when separating eggs.

Use an inexpensive egg separator to ensure that any bacteria on the shell will not contaminate the yolk or white.

Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper St. She can be reached at 843-7058.

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