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UW-Extension warns about egg safety for spring celebrations
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DARLINGTON - The Lafayette County University of Wisconsin-Extension office is reminding citizens of proper egg safety for spring celebrations.

This time of year, eggs play an important role in many celebrations, family gatherings and Easter egg hunts. Like meat, poultry, seafood and produce, eggs are perishable and need to be handled properly to prevent foodborne illness. Occasionally, eggs with clean, uncracked shells can be contaminated with bacteria, specifically Salmonella Enteritidis.

Tips to keep eggs safe this season include:

Always wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food, especially raw eggs.

Bacteria grow in moist, protein-rich foods. Refrigeration slows bacterial growth, so it's important to refrigerate eggs and egg-containing foods. The refrigerator should be at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Eggs should be stored in the carton, not on a rack on the door where they will warm up quickly each time the door opens.

Whether you like your breakfast eggs scrambled or fried, always cook eggs until the yolks and whites are firm. Egg-based casseroles should reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, as measured with a thermometer.

Licking a spoon or tasting raw cookie dough from a mixing bowl can be risky. Bacteria could be lurking in the raw eggs. Prepared cookie dough that is bought in the refrigerated section of the grocery store is made with pasteurized eggs; this type of dough should be chosen if young family members will be helping to work with raw cookie dough.

Tips to make perfect hard-boiled eggs for decorating and hunting include:

Only use eggs that have been refrigerated, and discard those that are cracked or dirty. Remove eggs from the refrigerator and place a single layer of eggs in a saucepan. Add cool water to at least one inch above the eggs. Cover the pan, bring the water to a full rolling boil. Turn off the heat and let the eggs stand, covered for 18 minutes for extra large eggs, 15 minutes for large or 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. 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.

For more information, contact Mary Knellwolf, UW-Extension Family Living Educator in Lafayette County, at 608-776-4820.