Can You Eat the Dyed Boiled Eggs After the Easter Egg Hunt?

To snack or not to snack.

Easter eggs basket
Photo: Getty Images/VikaRayu

In the South, Easter is a holiday that puts preciously preserved traditions on full display, from the spread of baked ham and macaroni-and-cheese to the seersucker suits seen in the church pews or on the lawn of the egg hunt. And the most widely practiced Easter tradition is undeniably dyeing hard-boiled eggs. Nowadays, Easter eggs can go beyond classic pastel with marbled, speckled, and other creations, but they're still a mainstay along with the candy-filled plastic eggs at the celebration. After the kids—and adults, too!—have dunked and dyed prior to Easter Sunday, the collection of brightly colored cartons typically head to the fridge to await the big egg hunt.

Out of all the Easter egg hunts I participated in growing up, there is one that always sticks out in my memory. In the chaos of the egg hunt, a dog got loose and was quickly making his way into Easter baskets looking for a candy snack. After he was apprehended and no chocolate had been harmed, the egg hunt went on unremarkably, barring perhaps one tantrum over who found the most eggs. That is, until afterwards when we discovered my baby sister (who was around seven-years-old at the time) hiding in the corner with the dog, eating the dyed boiled eggs from the hunt. One for her, one for the pup, and so on. There had to have been at least eight eggs unshelled and nowhere to be found. Everyone couldn't help but laugh, despite being slightly concerned over the consumption of quite so much cholesterol.

She was fine, and so was the dog, but each year when I think about that Easter egg hunt, it makes me wonder if it's really ever safe to actually eat the boiled eggs from the Easter hunt. As it turns out, it's often not the best idea—but not always forbidden. According to the American Egg Board, boiled eggs should not be eaten if they've been left out unrefrigerated for two hours or more. The more time that passes, the more risk there is for bacteria growth and salmonella exposure.

For example, if you've been storing the dyed eggs in the fridge and only took them out right before the egg hunt, there's a chance you'd be able to consume them on the spot or put them back in the fridge immediately for later use. However, according to the American Egg Board, when the temperature outside is over 85 degrees, shorten the two-hour room-temperature limit to just one hour.

If the dyed eggs weren't kept refrigerated—which isn't uncommon for people who do not have room for five dozen eggs in the fridge when there's Easter lunch to be prepped—or if they were pulled out hours in advance, they're not safe to consume after the egg hunt.

As always, it's always best to be safer than sorry. If you're unsure, better not to risk any exposure to salmonella for the sake of your health and your guests'. (Just warn the kids.)

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