Exercise caution when blowing out Easter eggs

At Easter raw eggs are blown out and decorated in many families, schools and kindergartens. However, caution should be exercised:  Salmonella and other germs may be present on the eggs. Children in particular can become infected. At Easter eggs are not just used for decorative purposes, they are also eaten. Hard-boiled eggs are especially popular and - when it comes to Salmonella - they are also safe. Germs cannot survive at the temperatures reached during boiling. Nevertheless, hard-boiled eggs cannot be stored indefinitely. The forthcoming Easter celebrations prompted the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) to draw attention to a few simple hygiene rules for handling eggs. "The correct handling of sensitive foods can avoid unpleasant and, in some cases, even dangerous food infections. Correct storage extends the shelf life of foods," says Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel, BfR President.

Every year more than 50,000 Salmonella infections are recorded in Germany; however the number of unreported cases is far higher. The reason for the infections is always poor hygiene, in the domestic kitchen, too. Salmonella infections - also called salmonellosis - are primarily unpleasant cases of diarrhoea frequently coupled with vomiting and headaches. As children under the age of five are particularly sensitive, salmonellosis may take a more serious course for this group and for older and sick people and even prove fatal in individual cases.

Besides raw poultry meat, raw eggs are one of the main sources of Salmonella. During examinations in conjunction with the Salmonella monitoring of laying hens in 2005, Salmonella were detected in 29% of the flocks examined in Germany. That same year around 0.5% of the examined eggs were tested positive for Salmonella in routine examinations. The germs are normally to be found on the shell and less frequently in the egg yolk. Hence, if at all possible children should not have any contact at all with raw eggs. In particular they should not use their mouths to blow out any eggs in order to avoid Salmonella infection.

This doesn’t mean that they cannot participate in this popular pre-Easter tradition. The eggs can be blown out just as well with a thin straw, a disposable syringe with a needle or a special pair of bellows and then washed. Anyone who follows the tips below can be relatively certain of avoiding a gastro-intestinal infection:

  • Only blow out and decorate clean, fresh eggs.
  • Make a hole carefully in the eggs and thoroughly clean any tools used.
  • The blown out eggs should be washed thoroughly inside and out with lukewarm water and a little washing-up liquid and then carefully dried with kitchen roll.
  • Remove any splashes of egg yolk or white with kitchen roll and thoroughly clean the work surfaces.
  • After blowing out and decorating raw eggs, wash hands thoroughly with warm water and soap and dry thoroughly.

If you want to really play it safe, only decorate hard-boiled eggs or eggs made of wood, polystyrene or plastic.

Consumers who cook and decorate eggs in order to eat them at Easter should check that the shell is not damaged. Eggs with a damaged shell go off more quickly because germs can pass through the shell and reach the egg inside and then multiply there. For the same reason eggs should not be doused in cold water after boiling either. Hard-boiled eggs should always be stored in a cool, dry and clean place.

In contrast to eggs boiled at home, already cooked and decorated eggs purchased from a shop can be stored for several weeks at room temperature as long as the shell has not been damaged. These eggs are given a protective varnish coating after decorating which aims to prevent the penetration of germs. Nevertheless, they should still be stored in the fridge after purchase.

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