Dyeing to Know: Are Easter Eggs Safe to Eat?
Don’t let a rotten egg spoil your spring holiday! Follow these tips for buying, dyeing and hiding eggs
Dyeing Easter eggs is a rite of spring. But if you don’t handle eggs with care, this holiday ritual won't be all it's cracked up to be. Egg safety is serious business: According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 142,000 people get sick each year after eating eggs contaminated with salmonella.
Usually when an egg makes someone ill, it’s because the egg wasn’t cooked or stored properly. Safe egg handling isn’t rocket science, though. Here’s to dye your Easter eggs and eat them, too.
Related: How to Cook (Safely) With Kids
Don’t be a dye hard
When it comes to safely coloring eggs, the dye you use is the last thing you need to worry about. It’s perfectly fine to use a store-bought Easter egg kit. According to the FDA, food-coloring additives are carefully assessed and deemed safe to be eaten before they hit the market.
If you’d rather not use a commercial dye on your eggs, you can make homemade egg dyes with beets, red cabbage, red onion and turmeric, says Alissa Rumsey, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Purchase eggs only from a refrigerated case. Look for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) grade shield or mark on the carton. Make sure the eggs aren’t out of date. Open the carton and check each egg for cracks or chips. Bacteria can enter through openings in the shell and contaminate the egg.
Get your eggs into the fridge as soon as you can. They should be stored in an area of the refrigerator that's 40 F or colder, says Rumsey. Don’t stash them on the refrigerator door because the temperature may fluctuate when it’s opened and closed.
Don’t undercook them
Cook eggs you plan to dye all the way through, until the whites and yolks are firm. To hard boil eggs, the American Egg Board recommends placing them in a single layer in a pan, covering them with cold water and heating over high just until the water boils. Take the pan off the burner, cover it and let the eggs stand in the hot water for 12 minutes.
Don’t worry if an egg cracks during hard cooking — you can still eat it. “But don’t color eggs that have cracked, because the extra handling makes them an easier target for bacteria,” says Rumsey.
Believe it or not, hard-cooked eggs spoil faster than raw ones because boiling water washes away the egg’s protective outer coating. Without this layer, the shell’s pores are exposed and bacteria can enter. Wash your hands thoroughly before you handle boiled eggs.
Return cooked eggs to the carton and put them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to dye them. “Hardboiled eggs should be eaten with a week, and if they’ve been out of the refrigerator, consume them within two hours,” advises Rumsey. Eggs that have been peeled should be eaten that day.
If you’re planning to use dyed eggs for an Easter egg hunt, consider having it indoors. The USDA says that eggs that have been on the ground can pick up bacteria from dirt, grass and animal droppings. If you want to hunt for eggs outdoors, hide plastic ones instead.