Reminding People of Egg Safety This Easter

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With Easter upon us, Health Canada would like to remind us of the importance of proper handling and preparation of eggs to prevent foodborne illness.

Although Salmonella is not very common in Canadian eggs, some people are more susceptible to it, particularly young children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems. Therefore, it is recommended that eggs be cooked thoroughly when serving them to people in these high-risk groups. You can reduce your risk of contracting foodborne illness from eggs by following a few simple tips.

Shop carefully: Choose only refrigerated eggs with clean and uncracked shells. Do not use an egg if its contents are leaking through the shell or if it is stuck to the carton. Check the "best before" date on the package. While all eggs sold in Canadian grocery stores are graded Canada A, those sold elsewhere (such as at farms and farmers' markets) may be ungraded. Ungraded eggs are not subject to the same food safety standards as graded eggs and have a higher chance of being contaminated by harmful bacteria such as Salmonella. Check for the maple leaf symbol on the carton or ask the vendor if you're unsure whether the eggs have been graded.

Keep eggs cold: Eggs should be refrigerated within two hours of purchase and should be placed in the coldest section of the refrigerator in their original carton; eggs should not be kept in the refrigerator door. The carton helps protect the eggs from damage and odours. Don't crack the shell of an egg until you want to use it. Hard-cooked eggs, in shell or peeled, and pickled eggs can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week. Hard-cooked yolks should be used within five days. If you include eggs in your lunch, make sure to include an icepack to keep the eggs cold.

Keep clean: Remember to wash your hands, utensils, cutting boards, and counters carefully with soap and warm water before and after handling raw eggs. This helps to avoid potential cross contamination and prevent the spread of foodborne illness related to eggs.

Cook thoroughly: Eggs and egg-based foods should be cooked thoroughly to ensure they are safe to eat. This includes the yolk, which should not be runny. Serve egg dishes immediately after cooking. Store any leftovers in containers and refrigerate them within two hours. Uncooked cookie dough and batters made with raw eggs can contain Salmonella and should not be tasted or eaten until cooked thoroughly. Use pasteurized egg products instead of raw eggs when you are preparing uncooked homemade foods that use raw eggs, such as icing or Caesar salad dressing.

Easter eggs: Decorated eggs that have been left out on display are not safe to eat. If you want to eat the eggs you decorate you should hard boil them thoroughly and then cool them (either by immersing them in cold tap water or on the counter until they have reached room temperature) before placing them in the fridge. Use a non-toxic colouring dye on eggs. Be sure that eggs are kept cold before and after dyeing. Between dyeing and cooling, they should be out of the refrigerator for no more than two hours in total. Coloured hard-boiled eggs can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

It is estimated that there are approximately 11 million cases of food-related illnesses in Canada every year. Many of these cases could be prevented by following proper food handling and preparation techniques.