If you’ve got your eggs, vinegar and dye kits ready to go this Easter weekend, you might already be dreaming of all the rainbow hard-boiled egg recipes you can make after—but we’re going to have to stop you right there.
Unfortunately for Easter observers, it is generally not safe to eat the beautiful eggs after you’ve dyed them. The threat has little to do with the food coloring, though, since store-bought kits are safe for consumption. The problem lies in the amount of time the eggs sit out on display after they’re decorated.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration states that you should not eat any cooked eggs or egg dishes that have been out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours or for more than 1 hour when temperatures are above 90° because they are more susceptible to bacteria.
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You could eat your creations if they’re refrigerated promptly after dying, but most people tend to leave the eggs in baskets for guests to marvel at.
If bacteria does grow, and you contract a foodborne illness, symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or flu-like symptoms, according to the FDA.
If we’ve just crushed your dreams of eating deviled eggs or egg salad sandwiches on Easter Sunday or Monday, there are a few work arounds. Perhaps the easiest, is simply to just make extra hard-boiled eggs when you’re cooking them for dying. Leave a few uncolored and throw them in the refrigerator shortly after cooling.
The other option is to get creative with your Easter basket displays. The FDA recommends keeping cold egg dishes on ice if they are going to stay out longer than 2 hours. So this year you could opt to swap the crinkle paper or fake grass for crushed ice. Just make sure to line the baskets with a bowl or ice bucket to avoid a mess.
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