The kitchen, for food, is often the first place children go when they get home from school, but it’s not always the safest place. Millions of children become ill from the food they eat.
Here are some food safety recommendations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to share with children to help keep them safe after school. When coming home after school, kids can help prevent illnesses by following these recommendations:
- Place books, bags, and sporting equipment on the floor, not on eating counters or the kitchen table where germs could be transferred.
- Clean out lunch boxes and throw away perishable sandwiches or other “refrigerator type” foods, such as yogurt tubes or cheese sticks, left over from lunch.
- Wash your hands before you make or eat a snack. Hands carry lots of germs, and not washing hands is a top cause of foodborne illness.
- Always use clean spoons, forks, and plates.
- Wash fruits and vegetables with running tap water before you eat them.
- Do not eat bread, cheese, or soft fruits or vegetables that are bruised or have spots of mold.
- Do not eat unbaked cookie dough because it may contain raw eggs that can have Salmonella bacteria.
- Do not leave cold items, like milk, lunchmeat, hard cooked eggs, or yogurt, out on the counter at room temperature. Put these foods back in the refrigerator as soon as you’ve fixed your snack.
- Don’t eat any perishable food left out of the refrigerator, such as pizza — even if it isn’t topped with meat. Food should not be left in the temperature “Danger Zone” of 40 to 140 °F for more than 2 hours (1 hour if the temperature is 90 °F or higher).
Heating or cooking foods in microwave ovens can present food safety and personal safety challenges. Some foods do not heat evenly to destroy all bacteria that could be present. Keep these tips in mind:
- Read package directions carefully. An adult needs to tell children whether to use the minimum or maximum cooking time on food package directions.
- Use only microwave-safe cookware. Don’t put metal or foil-wrapped foods in the microwave. Never microwave food in cold storage containers, such as margarine tubs, cottage cheese cartons, or bowls from frozen whipped topping. The containers can melt and transfer harmful chemicals into the food.
- For more even cooking and to better destroy bacteria, cover a dish of food with a lid, plastic wrap, or wax paper. Turn up one corner to let excess steam escape while food is microwaving.
Halfway through cooking, rotate food packages and dishes or stir food during microwaving — even if the oven has a turntable. This helps the food cook more evenly and safely.