Eggs are a traditional part of Easter décor and celebrations, but it is risky to eat or use these hard-boiled eggs for recipes after the festivities are over. The best practice is to discard hard-boiled eggs used for Easter decorations or hunts, says Mississippi State University Extensive Service family and consumer science agent Fran Brock. “We don’t recommend eating eggs that have been used for hunting or display,” Brock said. “Hunts usually take place outside, and you don’t want to eat eggs that have been lying on the ground or in other areas that may be contaminated with bacteria or chemicals. Bacteria can easily contaminate the egg, especially if the shell is cracked.” Eggs used for display will likely exceed the two-hour limit for being out of refrigeration. If you insist on eating their Easter eggs, it is important to observe some safe handling guidelines: “Eggs must be hidden and hunted within two hours to reduce the risk of food poisoning,” says Brock. “Keeping eggs out of refrigeration for longer than two hours can allow bacteria to multiply. Hidden eggs should be protected from dirt, pets, birds, insects and other sources of bacteria.” Once the hunt is over, check the eggs for cracks before returning them to the refrigerator. Throw away any eggs that are cracked. Eat the remaining eggs within seven days. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service also recommends washing the hunted eggs before returning them to the refrigerator. Even if a hunt takes place indoors, eggs can still pick up dangerous bacteria. Hard-boiled eggs are more susceptible than fresh eggs to bacterial contamination because boiling removes the naturally occurring protective outer layer on the shell. Eggs used for hunting are also handled a lot, which increases the risk of bacterial contamination even more. Always follow basic food safety guidelines when decorating eggs that will later be eaten. Wash hands, utensils and surfaces before, during and after cooking and decorating eggs. Also, use a food-safe dye for coloring the eggs. Plastic, wooden and paper eggs are three alternatives to hard-boiled eggs. The best way to store real eggs them long term is to freeze them. Raw whole eggs, egg whites and egg yolks outside the shell can be frozen. Hard-boiled eggs do not freeze well because the white becomes tough and rubbery. For best quality, whisk them before freezing for improved texture when cooked. Be sure to label them if they are sweet or salty, so you won’t be in for a surprise when you use them in a recipe.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Excerpted from Mississippi State University Extension Service report.