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Don't let Easter turn rotten

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By Brian Funk, Editor

Eggs are a timeless and symbolic part of Easter, representing natural and spiritual rebirth and the circle of life.

They’re also ticking time bombs of bacteria if improperly cooked and can stink up the house if hidden and not found by your kids for weeks.

Ah, memories...

This weekend, millions of families will dip eggs in dye, paint colorful designs and apply stickers of bunnies or Spongebob. And, a lot of them will get sick from eating undercooked eggs.

To our rescue of all our stomachs comes the Virginia-based Children’s Group, Inc., which e-mailed The Gazette a list of cooking and egg-hiding tips to keep you out of the emergency room on Easter Sunday.

Linda DeRose-Droubay, director of safety and quality compliance at The Children’s Group, said parents should become “egg-sperts” before making Easter plans.

“Eggs are a big part of our kids’ Easter traditions, but they also come with some inherent risks,” said DeRose-Droubay.

Some of the tips are pretty obvious — “Eggs found hours later or the next day should be thrown out — not eaten!”

Others are somewhat inexplicable — “Do not hide eggs in tool sheds” — but probably make sense.

Decorating & Eating

• Always buy eggs from a refrigerated case and keep them refrigerated before you boil them in preparation for decorating. Be sure to check the “sell by” dates.

• When you boil your eggs, make sure the water is hot (185-190s F). Cool your eggs in cold water or allow cooling slowly at room temperature.

• When shell eggs are hard-cooked, the protective coating is washed away, leaving open pores in the shell where harmful bacteria could enter. Be sure to refrigerate eggs within two hours of cooking and use them within a week.

• Don’t eat or cook with cracked eggs or eggs that have been unrefrigerated for more than two hours. (Duh.)

• If you plan to eat the Easter eggs you decorate, be sure to use only food grade dye. (Do not use spray paint, latex house paint or auto body paint, no matter how awesome your eggs look in metallic blue flake. )

• Some people make two sets of eggs — one for decorating and hiding, another for eating.

• Make sure to wash (and re-wash) your hands, utensils, and work surfaces to keep bacteria from spreading.

• Hide eggs in places that are protected from dirt, pets, and other bacteria sources — even though they’ll be picked up by your kids, which are also bacteria sources.

• Limit the hiding and hunting time for real eggs to two hours. (Two hours!? It’s an egg hunt on the lawn, not an expedition into the Amazon!)

• Refrigerate eggs immediately if they are to be eaten. (Of course, there is a theory that a rotten egg is easier to find than a fresh one.)

• Consider using plastic eggs. (You can also fill these with candy or small toys, which only ends in disappointment if you try it with a real egg. “Mmmm! Candy Kisses soaked in yolk!”)

Hiding

• Remember to avoid hiding places near tempting electrical outlets or plugs.

• Keep eggs at or below eye level of younger children. (No fair hiding them inside light fixtures, on top of the fridge or on the roof.)

• Do not hide eggs in cupboard or drawers with dangerous products.

• Do not hide eggs in, on, or under glass. (Deviled eggs, however, may be served this way.)

• Do not hide eggs in preexisting holes in the ground or trees, lest you confuse and/or enrage squirrels and moles.

• Do not hide eggs in any foliage that has thorns, looks potentially dangerous or poisonous. Basically, if you don’t know the name of the foliage, don’t put an egg in it. (Nobody wants poison oak on their tongue.)

• Do not hide eggs in any animal’s home, food bowl or play area. (Fluffy might mistake the egg — or you — for a meal.)

• Do not hide eggs where pesticides or poisons have recently been sprayed.

• Keep count and keep track of the eggs you hide. (Easter should not be ruined by math, lady.)

Here’s wishing you a safe, salmonella-free Easter!