How to Keep Easter Eggs and Ham Bacteria-Free

March 29, 2018
Clara Yuvienco, MPH, and Howard Seltzer

Clara Yuvienco is a member of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety Education Staff. Howard Seltzer is a member of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Easter is right around the corner, which for many families means a day of egg hunts, chasing kids, and a traditional ham for dinner. Be sure that your meal is properly prepared! No one wants to get foodborne illness, especially if they have cancer.share on twitter

Proper ham preparation

Whether you are cooking a raw ham or preparing a ready-to-eat ham product, follow these steps for a ham that is cooked to perfection.

  • Look at the label to see if the product needs to be cooked. Ham may look precooked but still be raw. You don't want to eat raw or undercooked ham.

  • If your ham needs to be cooked, make sure it reaches an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C) after resting for 3 minutes. Set the oven at 325°F (163°C) or higher.

  • Cooked canned ham and cooked vacuum-packaged ham, both from federally inspected plants, can be eaten right out of the package. All of these, along with spiral-cut cooked ham, are safe to eat cold or they can be warmed to an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C) because they are already fully cooked.

  • If a cooked ham has been repackaged in any way and is not in its original packaging, heat it to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) before you serve it.

  • Use a food thermometer to make sure the internal temperature is right.

Egg safety

Did you know that Salmonella bacteria can be found on both the outside and inside of eggs, even if they appear to be normal? The more Salmonella bacteria in the egg, the more likely the egg is to cause illness. To enjoy eggs without the risk of getting sick:

  • Store eggs in the refrigerator.

  • Discard any cracked or dirty eggs.

  • Be sure to wash hands and any surfaces (countertops, utensils, or dishes) after contact with raw eggs.

  • Cook eggs thoroughly, until both the yolk and white are firm. Cooking reduces the number of bacteria in an egg. Lightly cooked egg whites and yolks, such as sunny side up or over easy, have both caused Salmonella infections. If this is how you prefer your eggs, consider buying pasteurized eggs.

  • Recipes containing eggs mixed with other foods should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C).

  • Eat eggs soon after preparing them. Don't keep them warm or at room temperature for more than 2 hours. DO NOT EAT hard-boiled eggs that have been used for an egg hunt or as decorations. If eggs have been at temperatures above 40°F (4.5°C) for more than 2 hours, throw them away.

Need more food safety information? Call the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHOTLINE (1-888-674-6854) or email You can also chat live with a USDA food safety specialist at, available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, in English or Spanish.


Share your thoughts on this blog post on Cancer.Net's Facebook and Twitter.