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Egg facts

Easter is right around the corner! Have you noticed the stores are full of Easter goodies? It’s the perfect time of year to share some egg facts. Did you know that eggs are classified as a potentially hazardous food? Eggs need to be handled properly in order to prevent foodborne illness. Elizabeth Andress, UGA Extension Food Safety specialist, shared the following information about eggs and egg safety.

What should you consider when buying egs?

Never purchase eggs that are not in refrigeration. Carefully examine the eggs before you purchase them to make sure they are clean and free of cracks.

What are egg grades?

Egg grading is done by the USDA and is a voluntary service. The egg packers have to pay for the service in order to have their eggs graded. The consumer grades for eggs are grades A, AA and B. The quality of the interior of the egg and the appearance and condition of the shell determine the grade. Size does not affect the grade.

What does the date on the carton mean?

“Code Dates” on egg cartons are for the purposes of rotating stock or controlling inventory and can include the following: “EXP, “Sell by” and “Best if used before.” Code dates are optional on USDA graded eggs. If an expiration date is used, it must be printed in a month/day format and preceded by the appropriate prefix. “EXP”, “Sell By,” and “Not to be sold after the date at the end of the carton” are examples of expiration dates. Expiration dates can be no more than 30 days from the day the eggs were packed into the carton. Another type of code dating refers to the length of time the consumer can expect eggs to maintain quality when stored at ideal conditions. “Use by,” “Use before,” “Best before” indicates a period that the eggs should be consumed before overall quality diminishes. Code dating using these terms may not exceed 45 days including the day the eggs were packed into the carton.

Should eggs be refrigerated?

Eggs should be kept refrigerated at 40°F. or below to prevent the growth of bacteria.

What part of the egg carries bacteria?

The shell is where most of the bacteria are found. However, since bacteria can contaminate the egg before the shell is formed, there is the possibility that the yolk or white could also have bacteria present.

Should eggs be washed?

Eggs are washed and sanitized before they are packed. They are also coated with a thin layer of mineral oil to protect the egg. You should not wash eggs because washing them will remove the protective coating. This makes it possible for bacteria to pass through the shell and into the egg.

How do you safely handle eggs?

Since eggs are a potentially hazardous food it is important to handle them properly. You should wash your hands, equipment, utensils and work surfaces before and after working with eggs with hot, soapy water. Eggs should not be out of refrigeration for more than two hours. Recipes containing eggs should be cooked to at least 160 degree F. Fried eggs should be cooked until the yolk and white are firm. Scrambled eggs should be cooked until they are no longer runny. Pasteurized shell eggs should be used in recipes that call for raw or undercooked eggs.

What is the nutritional value of an egg?

The average large egg contains 70 calories, 5 grams of fat, and 6 grams of protein. Vitamin A, vitamin B-12, riboflavin, folacin, zinc, phosphorus, and iron are also found in the egg.

Is the appearance of the egg related to food safety?

There are several factors that can affect the appearance of an egg, such as blood spots, cloudy whites, variations in the color of the yolk, and green around the yolk of a cooked egg. These factors do not indicate that the egg is unsafe. A pink or iridescent egg white may be a sign of Pseudomonas bacteria. These eggs may be unsafe for consumption and should be discarded.

Are Easter eggs safe for consumption?

Use these food safety tips if you plan to eat the Easter eggs:

• Always wash hands before and after handling eggs.

• Hard cook the eggs, dye and refrigerate within two hours.

• Use food-safe natural or commercial dyes.

• Easter eggs that are used as decorations and not refrigerated should not be eaten.

• Egg hunts should be two hours or less using eggs without cracks.

• Hide eggs in areas that are clean and not susceptible to bacteria.

Dying eggs and Easter eggs hunts are wonderful fun! But what do you do with all the leftover eggs? If you are thinking of making egg salad, please remember to practice food safety! Always remember the saying, “When in doubt, throw it out.” Happy Easter!

Mitzi Parker is Sumter County Extension agent/Family and Consumer Sciences, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. Contact her at 229-924-4476.