Foodborne illness and kids

Keeping your children safe and healthy.

Foodborne illness is a concern for all of us. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) each year 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths in this country can be traced to foodborne pathogens. While we are all at risk for developing a foodborne illness from consuming food contaminated from bacteria, there are target groups of individuals who are at greater risk than the average person. The target groups identified are:

  • children younger than 5 years old
  • pregnant women
  • adults over 65 years old
  • people with weak immune systems

Individuals in these groups are more likely to get sick from contaminated food, and if they do get sick the effects may be more serious. People in these groups should be particularly careful not to consume undercooked animal products.

For parents and caregivers of children, additional information can help you understand the importance of following proper food safety practices to prevent foodborne illness. The CDC also shares that young children (under five years old) experience the highest rates of foodborne illness. They are more susceptible to foodborne illness than adults for several reasons:

  • Children’s immune systems are not yet fully developed so their ability to fight infection is reduced.
  • Children have a lower body weight so a smaller dose of a pathogen can make them sick.
  • Children have limited control over their diet and related food safety risks.

So, how can you ensure the safety of the food you prepare for yourselves and your children?  Michigan State University Extension recommends following the four basic food safety practices:

  • Clean: keep all hands, utensils, surfaces and equipment properly washed, rinsed and sanitized.
  • Separate: keep all raw meats, fish and poultry separate from ready-to-eat foods.
  • Cook: cook foods to recommended minimum internal cooking temperatures to ensure food is safe for consumption. Minimum cooking temperatures for steaks and chops are 145 degrees Fahrenheit, ground beef 160°F and all poultry 165°F. Use a food thermometer to check for proper temperatures.
  • Chill: Use a refrigerator thermometer to keep refrigerator temperatures below 40°F.

Safe food practices can help keep you and your children safe and healthy from foodborne illness.

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