If you will be dyeing and hunting Easter eggs next weekend, it’s important to follow these food safety rules to prevent illness.

• Keep fresh eggs refrigerated in the original carton until it’s time to cook them. Eggs are a high-protein food and are prone to rapid growth of the disease-causing bacteria Salmonella.

• Hard-cooked eggs can spoil faster than fresh ones. Eggs are porous, and bacteria can penetrate the shell. A protective coating that is added when eggs are washed at the plant washes away during boiling, which makes it easier for bacteria to enter the shell. Therefore, it is important to refrigerate hard-cooked eggs within two hours of cooking.

• Don’t handle eggs excessively, and wash your hands thoroughly when you do handle them.

• Don’t hide the same eggs you plan to eat. Plan to hide plastic eggs and decorate hard-boiled eggs for eating only.

• Don’t eat cracked eggs or eggs that have been out of the refrigerator longer than two hours.

A green ring around an egg yolk may look unappetizing, but don’t worry, the egg is still safe and will taste fine. The green ring is a result of sulfur and iron compounds reacting on the surface of the yolk. This can occur when eggs are overcooked or when there is a high amount of iron in the cooking water. The American Egg Board has a recommendation for cooking tender eggs with no green ring:

• Place eggs in a single layer in a pot with enough water to cover the eggs with at least an inch to spare.

• Cover the pot and quickly bring to a boil.

• Remove from heat, and leave the pan covered. Let sit for 15 minutes for large eggs, 13 minutes for medium eggs and 10 minutes for small eggs.

• Run cold water over eggs or place them in ice water until they are completely cooled. This stops the cooking process and makes the eggs easier to peel. Older eggs peel easier than fresh eggs.

• Hard-boiled eggs can be refrigerated safely up to seven days after cooking.

If you don’t want to worry about the safety of the egg, empty eggshells can be dyed and kept indefinitely.

• First, wash and dry the egg.

• Next, using a long needle, make a small hole at the small end of the egg and a larger hole at the large end of the egg. Stick the needle deep into the egg to break the yolk.

• Then, either shake the egg (large end down) over a bowl, or use a baster to pull out the contents. The contents can be used in any thoroughly cooked recipe that calls for mixed yolks and whites.

• Carefully rinse the shell and stand it on end to dry before you begin decorating

Jennifer Russell is an area child and family development agent for the Mississippi State University Extension Service. You may contact her at 453-6803 or jtb20@ext.msstate.edu.

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