Extension Service says use ‘eggs-tra’ care for spring celebrations

The big Easter egg hunt is coming this Sunday. If you are using hard boiled eggs, the University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture, Jefferson County Extension Service has tips for you.

We enjoy eggs all year for their protein value. Eggs are perishable and need to be handled properly to prevent food-borne illness.

Bacteria love to grow in moist, protein-rich foods. Refrigeration slows bacterial growth, so it’s important to refrigerate eggs and egg-containing foods at 40 degrees F or below. Use a refrigerator thermometer to check your refrigerator.

Here’s what you can do to have a safe and egg-cellent spring and summer with eggs.

Clean hands are important. Always wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and immediately after handling raw eggs. Count to 20 seconds or sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice to yourself. After all, music will make you feel more upbeat.

• Beware of cross-contamination. Always wash counter tops and cooking equipment between uses.

• Remember the 2-Hour Rule: Don’t leave perishable food, including eggs, out at room temperature for more than two hours.

• Always cook eggs until the yolks and whites are firm.

• Tasting is tempting, but never lick a spoon or taste raw cookie dough. Bacteria could be lurking in the raw eggs.

• Cook cheesecakes, lasagna, baked pasta and egg dishes to an internal temperature of 160 ºF. Use a food thermometer.

    Easter Egg Know-How

    • Only use eggs that have been refrigerated. Throw away eggs that are cracked or dirty.

    • When cooking, place a single layer of eggs in a saucepan. Add water to at least one inch above the eggs. Cover the pan, bring the water to a boil, and carefully remove the pan from the heat. Let the eggs stand (18 minutes for extra large eggs, 15 minutes for large, 12 minutes for medium). Immediately run cold water over the eggs. When the eggs are cool enough to handle, place them in an uncovered container in the refrigerator where they can air-dry.

    • When decorating, be sure to use food-grade dyes. It is safe to use commercial egg dyes, liquid food coloring, and fruit-drink powders. When handling eggs, be careful not to crack them. Otherwise, bacteria could enter the egg through the cracks in the shell.

    • Keep hard-cooked Easter 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 “found” eggs are back in the refrigerator or consumed within two hours.

    • Remember that hard-boiled eggs are only safe to eat for one week after cooking.

      If you have questions or concerns about eggs, contact the Jefferson County Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Mary Ann Kizer, at 500 Idaho St., by phone at 870-534-1033, e-mail mkizer@uaex.edu, or Facebook at mkizer@uaex.edu.

      Additional sources of egg information are the American Egg Board (AEB) at www.aeb.org and the Egg Safety Center (ESC) at www.eggsafety.org. For more food safety information, visit www.fightbac.org or www.foodsafety.gov.

      The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the U of A Division of Agriculture, and offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age disability, marital or veteran status, or any other legally protected status.

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      Mary Ann Kizer is a Jefferson County Extension Service family and consumer sciences agent.