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Released: March 25, 2002

Remember Food Safety When Decorating Easter Egg

USDA Sets Guidelines For Hard-Boiled Eggs

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has published guidelines to encourage the safety of preparing hard-boiled, Easter eggs. The guidelines are as follows:

1. Put eggs in a single layer in a saucepan and add enough tap water to come at least one inch above the eggs.

2. Cover.

3. Put on high heat until water boils.

4. Turn off heat. If necessary, remove pan from burner to prevent further boiling.

5. Let stand in the hot water 15 minutes for large eggs. Adjust the time up or down by approximately three minutes for each size larger or smaller.

6. Cool immediately and thoroughly in cold water.

7. Decorate and refrigerate until ready for use.

MANHATTAN, Kan. Ė Decorating Easter eggs is a tradition that can bring enjoyment, but decorators need to remember food safety too.

"The main concern when dealing with eggs is Salmonella," said Karen Blakeslee, coordinator of the food safety Rapid Response Center at Kansas State University. "The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports 40,000 cases of Salmonella each year, and they estimate that up to 20 times that many go unreported."

To decrease the risk of Salmonella, cook eggs properly and keep hands clean so as to not cross-contaminate other foods. Make sure the eggs arenít broken because cracked eggs could be contaminated. People who raise chickens should gather eggs at least once or more each day. Keep eggs refrigerated at all times. If having an Easter egg hunt, only allow eggs to be out of the refrigerator for two hours or less, or Blakeslee suggests a separate batch of eggs be prepared just for the hunt.

"By the time you take the eggs out of the refrigerator, they get hidden in a number of possibly contaminated areas, then kids handle them extensively. They probably should not be eaten," she said. "Another option is to use the plastic eggs for the Easter egg hunts, and fill the eggs with candy or money for a special treat."

Blakeslee said there are many options available when decorating eggs.

"There are a number of other options for decorating eggs. Eggs can also be decorated with magic markers, paint, glitter, or even sequins," Blakeslee said. "And if you are dyeing the eggs, wash them in a mild detergent solution before decorating to give a light oil coating to help color adhere more evenly. But be sure to use a food-safe dye."

Commercial egg decorating dyes are food-safe, as is food coloring added to a water-vinegar mix. Organic dyes are another option. Tea or coffee will provide a tan or brownish shade. Beet or cranberry juice will produce red dye. For green, use the water from cooked spinach leaves, or for blue, use blueberry juice.

The Easter egg tradition dates back centuries, possibly as far back as Egyptian times, according to Blakeslee.

"To some, the Easter egg symbolized the rebirth of Christ; the shell symbolizes the tomb, and the chick born from the egg represented Christ rising from the dead. To others, the egg symbolizes the rebirth of nature with the coming of Spring," Blakeslee said. "The amount of decorations or the way the eggs were decorated depended on the beliefs of the people, but many of the decorated eggs used to be given as gifts."

One of the advantages of the Easter egg tradition is that the decorated eggs can be consumed. Hard-boiled eggs in the shell should be used within a week, or within 2-3 days if the shell has been removed. Uncooked egg contents from hollowed eggs should be used within a day or two, Blakeslee said.

For more information on Easter eggs, decorating tips and egg safety, visit K-Stateís Rapid Response Centerís website at


K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.

Story by:
Linda Sleichter, Communications Assistant
K-State Research& Extension News

Additional Information:
Karen Blakeslee is at 785-532-1673