April 5, 2021 | Susan Napier-Sewell

Food Safety: Hard-Boiled Eggs Don’t Last Forever

hard-boiled eggs safety

Hard-boiled eggs don’t last forever. Store them safely and use them soon.

After boiling eggs, decorating them, hunting them, and adding them to candy baskets, families need to make sure leftover hard-boiled eggs are handled properly so no one gets sick.

Eggs can cause food poisoning because salmonella is a common bacteria found in uncooked and unbroken eggs. 

  • DID YOU KNOW: Salmonella can be present on both the outside and the inside of eggs.

The FDA has put regulations in place to help prevent contamination of eggs on the farm and during shipping and storage, but consumers also play a key role in preventing illness linked to eggs.

With Easter comes more egg handling, especially for children. This means it is important to follow safe handling tips when preparing, storing, and serving eggs — or foods that contain them.

Here are some important food safety tips to remember after the Easter eggs festivities:

Inspect the eggs

  • Cracked eggs should not be consumed, as dangerous bacteria may have entered through the crack, even in a hard-boiled egg.

Wash your hands, counters, and utensils

  • This past year has taught us about the importance of washing your hands to prevent illness, and hand-washing is just as important when it comes to handling eggs.
  • Everyone (yes, including children) should wash their hands with soap and water before and after handling eggs. This includes prepping, cooking, cooling, dyeing, hiding, hunting, and peeling them.
  • Thoroughly wash utensils, countertops, and anything else the eggs come into contact with. 

 The safest way to make hard-boiled eggs

  • Place eggs in a pan of room-temperature water with the eggs covered with at least one inch of water. 
  • When the water is at a full boil, remove the pan from the heat source and let the eggs stay in the water for between 12-18 minutes, depending on the size of the eggs. 
  • After the eggs have set for the appropriate amount of time, run cold water over them. 
  • When the eggs are cool enough to handle, place them in the refrigerator.

Refrigerate eggs at 40 degrees F or below

  • Store eggs inside the fridge, not the fridge door.
  • Hard-cooked, refrigerated eggs can be stored for up to one week and safely consumed. 
  • Eggs — and foods containing boiled eggs — can be out of refrigeration for two hours (when it’s under 90 degrees F) and still be safe to eat. 
  • Even though eggs can show signs of spoilage when they’re past the best-by date, this should not be used as an indicator of an egg’s safeness — eggs that harbor Salmonella taste, smell, and appear exactly the same as “normal” eggs.

Easter eggs

  • If you plan on consuming decorated eggs, make sure only food-safe dyes were used. 
  • The total time for hiding and hunting eggs should not exceed two hours. If the hidden eggs were out longer than two hours they should be discarded.
  • Make sure hidden eggs did not come in contact with pets, wild animals, birds, or lawn chemicals. Eating eggs that have been on the ground is not recommended. 
  • If you are planning to use colored eggs as decorations for centerpieces, etc., and the eggs will be out of refrigeration for many hours or several days, discard them after they have served their decorative purpose. 

About Salmonella infections

Food contaminated with Salmonella bacteria does not usually look, smell, or taste spoiled. Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection. Infants, children, seniors, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are fragile, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Anyone who has handled live poultry and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention. Sick people should tell their doctors about the possible exposure to Salmonella bacteria because special tests are necessary to diagnose salmonellosis. Salmonella infection symptoms can mimic other illnesses, frequently leading to misdiagnosis.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. Otherwise, healthy adults are usually sick for four to seven days. In some cases, however, diarrhea may be so severe that patients require hospitalization.

Older adults, children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, are more likely to develop a severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions.

Some people get infected without getting sick or showing any symptoms. However, they may still spread the infections to others.

From Food Safety News, “Hard-boiled Easter eggs don’t last forever; store safely and eat soon,” April 4, 2021.

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