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Hunting Easter eggs the safe way

By By Carolyn Bivins
Many "children" young and old alike are looking forward to the traditional Easter Egg Hunt this week-end. You remember how that goes don't you? You dye all those eggs then hide them outside in the grass, bushes, behind trees and who knows where else. After the Easter egg hunt is over you can eat those eggs, right? NO! WRONG! NO WAY! NA – DA! NOPE! DON'T DO IT! Please do not eat the real eggs you hide outside!
Instead follow this great tip: Hide plastic eggs for the egg hunt and then let the children exchange them for the colorful hard-cooked eggs, after the hunt. Putting little candies or toys inside the plastic eggs will also add to the fun.
Handling eggs at Easter or at any time during the year provides many chances for eggs to become contaminated with bacteria. Keep the following tips in mind to assure your Easter will be a happy and safe one:
Cracking the date on egg cartons
Do you know how to tell how old eggs in a carton are? Well there is a way to tell if you look at the printed codes on one side of the egg carton. Follow these guidelines for how long eggs are safe to eat:
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA, "Many eggs reach stores only a few days after the hen lays them. Egg cartons with the USDA grade shield on them, indicating they came from a USDA-inspected plant, must display the 'pack date' (the day that the eggs were washed, graded, and placed in the carton). The number is a three digit code that represents the consecutive day of the year (the 'Julian Date') starting with January 1 as 001 and ending with December 31 as 365." To determine Julian Dates: Though not required, egg cartons also may contain a "sell by" date beyond which they should not be sold. USDA inspected plants (indicated by the USDA shield on the package); this date can't exceed 30 days beyond the pack date. Always purchase eggs before their "sell by" date.
To help preserve the quality of your eggs, store them in their carton in the coldest part of the refrigerator, not open on the door. Temperature fluctuation may decrease storage time. You should run your refrigerator at 40 degrees F or lower at all times. Source: Facets. March/April, 2008
Carolyn F. Bivins is an Escambia County regional extension agent for human nutrition, diet and health. She can be reached at 251-867-7760 or via email at bivincf@auburn.edu