As parents we are constantly aiming to keep our kids safe and healthy, especially when it comes to food. We check labels for harmful additives, we buy fresh fruit and vegetables and makes sure our kids are getting a balanced diet, but have you thought about keeping kids healthy by maintaining food hygiene in the home?
By taking care with food hygiene in your own kitchen you can help to protect your family by preventing food poisoning illnesses including salmonella, e. coli, and listeria which can all cause vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration. Food poisoning can be especially dangerous for younger children but by maintaining good food hygiene when choosing, preparing, cooking and storing food you can prevent food borne illnesses.
So, what do you need to do to keep your kids safe and healthy?
At the Supermarket
The first stage of maintaining food hygiene can start when you shop for food. In order to ensure food stays as fresh as possible you should put refrigerated and frozen items in your shopping basket at the end of your shop – that way they will spend less time out of their correct storage environment. Depending on how long your journey home is you may want to take a food cooler with you in the car.
Keep meat and fish away from other items in your basket and check their expiration dates as well as how they look or smell. Even if produce is within its expiration date don’t buy it if it smells or looks strange.
Never buy fresh fruit or vegetables if their skin is broken, this gives bacteria the perfect opportunity to creep inside and contaminate your food. The same goes for eggs, before purchasing a carton of eggs check that all shells are intact.
When you get home it’s important to start putting your food away in the appropriate storage areas, starting with food that belongs in the fridge or freezer. Your fridge should be between 37°F and 41°F and your freezer should be 0°F – these temperatures are essential for preventing any potential bacteria from multiplying.
Eggs should be stored in the fridge and meat, poultry and fish should be separated and kept packaged. Raw meat should be placed on lower shelves in the fridge so their juices don’t drip down and contaminate other foods.
Minced meat, fish and poultry should be frozen or cooked within 2 days after purchase and other meat within 5 days. Do not keep frozen meats in your freezer for longer than 3 months.
When preparing dinner for your family make sure you wash all fruit and vegetables that you will not be peeling – not only will this remove bacteria it will also remove any remaining soil or pesticides. There is no need to wash raw meat; this could actually cause you more problems when bacteria from the raw meat splashes back onto the sink and other surfaces.
If you are using frozen meat or fish ensure that it is completely thawed before starting to prepare it and once it is thawed cook it immediately.
When preparing foods keep meat and fish away from other food by using separate utensils and chopping boards, as well as washing your hands when handling different foods. Wash dishes that have held raw meats immediately and never place cooked food on a dish that has held raw meat.
When cooking eggs make sure they are cooked properly, uncooked eggs can pose a salmonella risk – this includes cake mix, so even if the kids demand to lick the spoon, don’t let them!
When cooking meat there should be no pink flesh left before serving and juices should run clear. If you want to be more precise check out these temperature guidelines:
● Poultry 165°F
● Other whole meats 145°F
● Minced meats 160°F
● Fish 145°F
● Dishes that include eggs 160°F
If you are reheating food it should not be reheated more than once and should be at least 165°F all the way through the dish.
The Clean Up & Leftover Storage
If you and your family don’t eat all of the food you have cooked then allow leftovers to cool before storing in the fridge and consume within 3 days.
Beware of old chopping boards; those ‘lived in’ cracks are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. You should also wash your chopping boards separately to other utensils and rinse thoroughly.
Sponges are just as dangerous as chopping boards, the older they are the more bacteria there will be lurking on their surfaces! Replace or wash your sponges and dishcloths often or use disposable paper towels to clean or dry your plates and surfaces.
Do you have any kitchen rules to keep your family safe in your home? Tell us how you make sure you are maintaining great food hygiene in your own kitchen.
About the Author:
Ryan Burch a proud member of the team at High Speed Training Ltd, one of Europe’s leading e-learning providers. We actually formed in 2007 as a specialist consultancy in food hygiene but have since grown our offering considerably and now have over 42 high quality online learning products, created in partnership with a specialist company in each relevant field. You can view the full range of career courses here.