As a parent, your days are likely filled with thoughts of keeping your children safe and providing for them in every way you can, from ensuring they clean and protect their teeth and get enough sleep, to organizing their lunch boxes, setting up play dates, and teaching them how to ride a bike.
Getting children to consume all the essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients they need to grow up healthy and strong is of course another important element. However, it’s also essential to keep hazardous things out of their system at all times. Read on for some food safety tips for young children you can follow today.
Know What Isn’t Safe for Children to Consume
Firstly, it is important to be aware of the different foods and drinks which are not suitable for little ones to eat or drink. Due to the fact that small children don’t have well-developed immune systems as yet, they struggle to fight off foodborne infections. They can also have a higher risk of choking.
If your children are under 4 years of age, avoid serving them small, hard, whole foods that they could accidentally choke on, such as:
- Raw peas
- Cherries with pits
- Whole olives
- Cherry tomatoes
- Sticky foods, like marshmallows, peanut butter, candies, gum, and dried fruits
- Cough drops and hard candy
- Whole grapes
- Large bits of meat or poultry
Unpasteurized Products and Possible Bacteria
Small children should also not be given certain foods which have proven to be hazardous to youngsters. This list includes unpasteurized milk and other unpasteurized dairy products (read about the bovine growth hormone concerns that stem from dairy milk), as well as unpasteurized juices.
In addition, children should not be fed:
- Raw or undercooked meat, poultry, fish or shellfish
- Raw sprouts
- Raw or partially cooked eggs (or any foods containing raw eggs)
Honey should be avoided before children turn one because it can contain spores of toxic bacterium that can lead to infant botulism. Botulism is a foodborne illness that can cause severe health issues and even be fatal.
Buy Food Safely
When you’re out shopping for groceries, there are other food safety issues to be aware of. For example, always check the expiration or best-by date on food labels. This is especially important for fish, poultry, and meat. Take notice of the look and smell of such foods too — even if the use-by date looks okay, if the items have a funny smell or look strange, they should be avoided.
When you’re buying cartons of eggs, check inside to ensure that each egg is in good condition and doesn’t have any cracks in it. Steer clear too of fruits and vegetables which have broken skin, because bacteria could have entered the produce through the openings and caused contamination.
It is also a good idea to leave pre-stuffed fresh chickens and turkeys on the shelf; and to keep any raw meat, poultry, and seafood away from other items in your grocery cart so that you don’t spread any bacteria from raw food to those things which are ready-to-eat.
Lastly, whenever you need to buy refrigerated or frozen items (think meats, dairy products, and fish), leave them until last so that they stay fresh. If your drive home will be longer than around 60 minutes, or you have to stop and complete other tasks on the way, you should bring cooler bags with you to keep the items cold during the trip. Once you arrive home, put all of these things away first.
Store and Cook Food Safely
The correct storage and cooking of food is also essential for safety. You can reduce the chances of anyone getting food poisoning if you set your fridge at 40 degrees or lower, and your freezer at zero degrees or lower. Ensure that perishable food stays below 40 degrees at all times (whether in the pantry or refrigerator), as at higher temperatures bacteria can grow quickly.
It is also a good idea to put seafood, meat, and poultry in separate plastic bags so that the juices from them never have the chance to get on other foods. As well, these items should always be cooked before the “best before” date, or no more than two to four days after you bought them.
When cooking, a huge priority is washing your hands with warm, soapy water before you start. Also make sure that all of your tools and kitchen areas (such as utensils, frying pans, oven dishes, and kitchen benches) are clean so that bacteria cannot spread.