You look forward to the tradition every year. You stock up on eggs, select your dyes, and pick a few patterns that will show off your creativity. Then for all of your efforts, you get to display your beautiful Easter handiwork on the table or as part of the big Easter egg hunt—but wait. Are those dyed eggs actually safe to eat?
Well, it depends.
It’s estimated that Americans dye more than 180 million eggs for Easter Sunday (read more incredible facts about eggs you never knew), so it would be a shame just to waste them. However, unless you set some parameters from the get-go, you’ll likely put yourself at risk for salmonella and eggs that end up in the trash.
If you can answer “yes” to EVERY question on this list, your eggs are still safe to eat. If you answer “no” to one or more questions, it’s best to toss those eggs, or use them for display only a bit longer.
Are the dyes used made for food coloring?
Use only dyes that are safe for food. There are fun options that use shaving cream or markers, but stick with food-grade dyes, egg coloring kids, or liquid, gel, and paste food dyes for baked goods.
Have the eggshells remained intact?
Cracked eggshells can harbor bacteria. Sometimes the cracks are noticeable immediately, but other times you won’t notice until you peel the egg and see a colored line of dye where the crack was. In either case, this egg should not be eaten.
Were the eggs refrigerated within 2 hours?
The USDA recommends tossing any perishable food that has sat at room temperature for more than two hours. (That recommendation drops to one hour if the ambient temperature reaches more than 90 degrees.) This is considered the “danger zone” for food, where food temperatures hover between 40 degrees and 140 degrees and bacteria multiply to dangerous levels.
Was your egg hunt indoors?
If you used hard-boiled eggs in your outdoor egg hunt, don’t eat them. Eggshells are very porous and can easily pick up contaminants from pesticides, animal manure, or any chemicals they come in contact with. (Tip: Let the egg hunters trade their decorated eggs for something else when they’re done, or Another tip: Have the hunt indoors, and put the eggs in small plastic bags.)
Has it been a week or less since the eggs were hard-boiled?
Eggs don’t keep as long once they’ve been boiled. According to the American Egg Board, hard-boiled eggs will last about a week in their shell, as long as they’ve been kept in the fridge. Only peel the shell when you’re ready to eat an egg. Peeled eggs only last about a day in the fridge, or three to five days if chopped up and used in a salad like this Healthy Avocado Egg Salad.
Also see, Cracking through 8 myths about eggs.