Steps to keep your children's food safe

Young children are more susceptible to foodborne illness – keep them safe.

Children are more susceptible to foodborne illness than adults (along with the elderly and those with weakened immune systems) because their immune systems haven’t developed enough to keep them safe. In order to keep those stomach upsets away, there are steps we can take:

Clean. Clean your counters, cutting boards, utensils and anything else that comes in contact with food. After cleaning, sanitize with a bleach water solution or food-safe wipes. The bleach water solution is generally one teaspoon all-purpose bleach to one quart water. The bleach should neither be concentrated nor scented. If using concentrated bleach, follow the manufacturer’s directions on the label. More is not better when it comes to bleach.

Michigan State University Extension recommends washing hands often as well. It is the most important thing you can do. Teach your children to wash their hands often as well, using warm, running water and soap.

Separate. When storing and preparing foods, keep raw away from ready to eat. If juices from raw meat and poultry make contact with salad, baby carrots, desserts or anything else that needs no further preparation, it can contaminate the ready to eat food. This starts at the grocery store – the bags provided at meat and produce counters keep cross contamination from happening. Store raw meats in the refrigerator below other foods to avoid contamination and use separate cutting boards when preparing meats and vegetables or fruits. If you have only one cutting board, clean and sanitize between uses.

Cook. Bacteria can be eliminated from meat if it is cooked to the proper minimum internal temperature. Children should not be served rare meat at any time. The only proper way to check the temperature of foods with a food thermometer. Use the following as a reference:

  • Beef, pork, veal, lamb, steaks, roasts and chops to 145 degrees Fahrenheit with a three-minute “rest time” after removal from the heat source.
  • Chicken and turkey — whole, pieces or ground to 165 degrees F.
  • Ground meats, including hamburgers and egg dishes, to 160 degrees F.
  • Reheat leftovers to 165 degrees F. 

The temperature should be taken at the thickest part of the meat or in various locations in dishes like soups or stews.

Chill. Bacteria growth is quickest at temperatures between 41 degrees F and 135 degrees F, which is known as the Temperature Danger Zone. Keep foods in a refrigerator set at 40 degrees F or below. After eating, make sure foods are chilled within two hours – this is the Two Hour Rule. When putting leftovers away, label them with the name and date; if they aren’t used within three days, either freeze them or throw them out. If something gets “lost” in your refrigerator and you don’t know if it’s is still good, MSU Extension recommends throwing it out.

You can find more information on how to keep your kids safe from tummy aches caused by foodborne illness at Stay food safe with Alvin and the Chipmunks!

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