During summer holidays, many kids munch a lot of chips; some may make cookies from scratch; others may use a microwave to heat instant noodles or soup. Sound safe?
Not if our chip-eater’s hands are dirty; or if the cookie-maker tastes the raw homemade cookie dough; or if the child isn’t tall enough to safely reach the microwave, and spills hot liquid on himself.
These activities, which are more common during summer holidays, can be major causes of serious illnesses or injuries, say Department of Environmental Health staff.
‘But parents can help to prevent this by teaching food safety at home with their kids,’ says Senior DEH Food Officer Gideon Simms. ‘This will help kids to safely prepare snacks and meals when adults aren’t at home to supervise food preparations.’
The risk of food-borne illnesses can also be reduced if parents stock foods that require no heating, such as peanut butter; jams and jellies; breads, crackers and cereals; washed fruits and vegetables; dried meats such as beef jerky; and canned meat or poultry products, which should be eaten immediately after opening.
It’s also important to teach kids to wash their hands often. Hand-washing has proven to be the No. 1 method of preventing the transmittance of bacteria, Mr. Simms explains.
Kids should wash their hands for 20 seconds – using antibacterial soap and warm water – before they eat; after playing with pets; after using the bathroom; and after sneezing, coughing, or blowing their nose.
If children are old enough to prepare food without adult supervision, they should still follow these guidelines:
Return perishable foods to your refrigerator promptly after making lunch. Don’t let them sit on the counter.
• Keep food preparation areas in the kitchen clean, before and after use.
• Keep raw meats, such as beef, poultry and seafood, separate from cooked foods.
• If you are using the microwave, stir the food halfway through to ensure thorough heating.
• Keep all dairy products, such as milk and yogurt, in the refrigerator.
• Never eat food that has a funny taste or smell.
• Use food within their recommended dates.
• Make sure that cold foods are always kept cold.
• Keep hot foods hot, like soups, stew or chilli.
• Clean your cutting boards, dishes, utensils and countertops with hot water and sanitiser, or antibacterial soap.
• Don’t let pets jump up on kitchen counters.
• Don’t put cooked foods on a plate that held raw meat, poultry or seafood. Always use a clean plate.
Food safety tips for leftovers
Many kids prepare leftovers for their meals. They should be instructed to follow these guidelines:
• Reheat food thoroughly, so that it is piping hot.
• Cover leftovers to prevent contamination.
• Eat leftovers within 48 hours.
• Promptly place any leftovers in the refrigerator. Cold food should be stored at 41F or colder.
• Store leftovers containing meat, fish, eggs, dairy products and rice within two hours of cooking.
• Never reheat leftovers in a slow cooker. The gradual heating promotes bacterial growth.
Safe use of the microwave
• Don’t allow children who don’t know how to read to use the microwave oven. Reading and understanding directions is extremely important. If they’re old enough to use a microwave, they should follow these tips:
• Heat hot dogs until they are steaming. Pierce them with a fork before putting them into the microwave oven, to keep them from exploding.
• Foods and liquids heat unevenly in a microwave, so stir or rotate food midway through cooking. If you don’t, you’ll have cold spots where harmful bacteria can survive.
• Loosely cover food that is to be microwaved with a lid or plastic wrap; the loose cover will let steam escape.
• To prevent burns, remove food carefully from the microwave oven. Use potholders, and move foods away from your face before you uncover them, so that the steam can escape.
• Do not use certain plastic containers, such as margarine tubs or other one-time-use containers, in the microwave. They can warp or melt, possibly causing harmful chemicals to get in the food.
• Do not use metals or aluminium foil in the microwave. Use only glass and other containers that are labelled ‘made for microwave use.’
• Discard leftovers if the food has been sitting at room temperature for more than 1 hour. When in doubt, throw it out.
For more information on food safety, contact DEH at 949-6696.