Safety Tips for Easter Eggs
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Easter Bunny beware 3/8 Hiding your eggs the night before the big hunt could endanger the finders.
That’s the warning of the Agriculture Department’s Meat and Poultry Hotline, which issued some food safety tips for the spring holidays.
″Since hard-cooked eggs should not be out of the refrigerator for more than two hours, hide them just before the Easter egg hunt, not the night before,″ says one tip.
″When preparing the eggs to be hidden, take care not to crack the shells. If the shells are cracked, bacteria from hands and hiding places could contaminate the egg,″ it adds.
″Remembering a few important food safety points can help prevent foodborne illness,″ said Susan Conley, manager of the hotline.
She noted that braided Easter breads sometimes contain eggs, unshelled and dyed, pushed into the plaits of the braid before or after baking. ″These eggs should be considered decoration only and not eaten, unless the bread is stored in the refrigerator,″ she said.
Here is her safety reminder on hams:
Dry-cured (country) hams keep one year on the shelf. Refrigerate country ham after slicing. Sliced, country hams may be kept in the refrigerator two to three months and, once cooked, five to seven days.
Fully cooked, ready-to-eat hams must be kept refrigerated. If desired, heat to 140 degrees Fahrenheit before serving. Fresh (raw) hams also must be refrigerated; they must be cooked before eating to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Leftover ham slices will keep up to five days in the refrigerator.
Canned hams with a ″Keep Refrigerated″ label must, of course, be stored in the refrigerator; use them within six to nine months.
″Raw foods like meat, poultry and eggs can be a source of bacteria,″ Conley said. ″Thorough cooking, proper cooling and refrigeration prevent the growth of bacteria that could cause illness.″
If a buffet is in your plans, serve hot food from chafing dishes, slow cookers or warming trays that maintain the internal temperature of the cooked food at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or above.
For cold foods, nestle the serving dish into a bed of crushed ice. Small platters for replenishing the serving table can be prepared ahead and stored in the refrigerator. Foods that have been held at room temperature for more than two hours should be discarded.
The hotline recommends that raw eggs, poultry, meat and fish be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit to kill any pathogens present. Once cooked, food may be maintained at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or refrigerated at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below to prevent future growth of pathogens.
As for lamb, beef brisket, and other meats, all should be cooked in an oven set no lower than 325 degrees to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees.
″Brisket requires longer cooking for tenderness and desired flavor. Cutting the brisket into uniform pieces and cooking with a sauce in a slow cooker is a safe alternative.″