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Food Safety and Kids

Holiday Food Safety and Children

Little girl making gingerbread cookiesThis time of year is perfect for family gatherings. Whether your family celebrates Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s, or Three Kings Day, there are probably at least a few family gatherings in your future. One fun way for parents and children to spend time together during the holiday season is by preparing and cooking many different types of foods for these and other festive feasts. Children can help in the kitchen by following the four basic messages of food safety: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.

Clean: Hand washing is especially important when it comes to food safety, for children and adults alike. Your little elves should wash their hands with soap and warm water for at least twenty seconds before they start to help you in the kitchen (this applies to you too!). You can help kids remember how long they should wash their hands by singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice; that is about how long they should be scrubbing.

If you have pets at home, or if your little one receives an animal as a gift this holiday season, hand washing is especially important. Everyone loves to pet animals, especially children, but after doing so you must wash your hands before preparing food or eating. That goes double for young children under five because their immune systems are still developing, leaving them at greater risk for contracting all sorts of foodborne illnesses.

Separate: Bacteria can be spread from one type of food to another. Teach your kitchen companions about this by explaining why you use separate cutting boards, dishes, and utensils for raw meat or poultry and ready-to-eat foods.

Cook: Bacteria cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted. While many think they can tell when food is “done” simply by checking its color and texture, there’s no way to be sure it’s safe without using a food thermometer. Teach your little ones this by showing them how to use a food thermometer when you cook your meal’s centerpiece.

  • Cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145 °F. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook meat to higher temperatures.
  • Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 160 °F.
  • Cook all poultry to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F. If you’re cooking a whole bird, the thermometer should be inserted into the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the thigh, and the innermost part of the wing.

When baking, the only way to make sure items are safe to eat is by fully cooking the eggs they contain. This means you and your family should not eat any batter or dough left over before baking.  Salmonella is a concern in uncooked eggs, and you cannot tell if an egg contains Salmonella. Fully cooking cookies and cakes is the only way to make sure they’re safe.

Chill: Food safety doesn’t stop after the meal is over.  Any leftover foods should be refrigerated promptly and not be kept at room temperature for more than two hours.  Any foods left out for longer than two hours should be discarded. Teach kids about this by making a game of packing leftovers. Whoever can get the most leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer when the meal is over wins!

By following these four basic messages, caregivers and children can ensure that bacteria and foodborne illness will not become part of their festivities.

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Posted in: Holidays | SeasonalTagged: Holiday