Make sure your egg hunt is a safe one

Make sure your egg hunt is a safe one

Easter egg hunts are adventurous for young and old. Fun can get out of hand when actual hard-cooked colored eggs are hidden. It is important to follow a few food safety rules to avoid problems. Stick to plastic eggs for the treasure hunt to stay safe.

The colored hard-cooked eggs that decorate Easter baskets are considered safe only if they are kept out of refrigeration at room temperature for no more than two hours. Yet there are stories of people eating Easter eggs left out of refrigeration for days without adverse effects. Is it worth the risk?

Two hours without refrigeration is the recommended maximum. Those at highest risk of a food-borne illness from mishandled eggs are the very young, the very old and those with certain disease conditions. Toddlers and the elderly do not have the strong immune system of a healthy adult to protect from harmful bacteria. Why take chances?

Hard-cooked eggs are more susceptible to spoilage because the cooking process removes a natural waxy protective layer from the shell. When eggs are boiled, the melting of this layer leaves the pores in the shells open for bacteria to enter and contaminate the eggs more easily. Allowing them to warm to room temperature increases the spread of bacteria. Hiding them in less than sanitary conditions adds to the risk.

If there are any eggs found in the garden or under the couch long after the Easter egg hunt, don’t let the little ones or Grandpa eat them. Eating them even if they are immediately chilled after finding them increases the risk of salmonella contamination. The symptoms of this food-borne illness include fever, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, chills, headache, muscle pains and bloody stools. Even though these conditions are not life threatening, they can cause dehydration and painful symptoms, especially in the young and elderly.

Usually, refrigerated hard-boiled eggs are safe to eat for seven days after cooking them, no matter what color they were dyed on the outside. Keeping and then eating hard-cooked eggs for less than seven days allows for maximum food safety and optimal nutrient value.

A large egg has about 70 calories and is an excellent source of protein, with about 6 grams per egg. There are approximately 5 grams of fat in an egg yolk with 3.5 of them unsaturated.

If a cracked hard-cooked egg is combined with other eggs that are not cracked, all of them can become contaminated. Do not eat cracked hard-cooked eggs. Consuming them only increases the risk for a food-borne illness.

A green ring around the yellow yolk of a hard-cooked egg does not mean it is spoiled. Overcooking causes the green color, which is a reaction of naturally occurring sulfur and iron in the egg. Sometimes the green color can be traced to a high level of iron in the water used to boil the eggs. Although they may look unappetizing, green eggs are safe to eat if handled properly.

Enjoy hard-cooked eggs that have been handled with care and refrigeration. Have fun with the kids searching for plastic eggs.

Bobbie Randall is a registered, licensed dietitian. Email her at

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