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Keeping the Kids Food Safe

As a mom, I feel like I always have food on the brain!  Whether I’m preparing meals, encouraging my kids to eat their veggies, or grocery shopping for the week, my life revolves around mealtimes. This is a good thing–my thoughts around meal- and snack time mean my family gets the nutrition that they need from infancy to adulthood (yes, your health is important too, Mom and Dad!).

Don’t Forget the Basics

But nutrition is not the only thing on my mind.  There are basic food safety practices that all of us moms and dads should know as we spend time in the kitchen. The basics of food safety–clean, separate, cook, and chill–are some of the most important things that you can do to keep your family food safe. For a quick review of the basics, check out how to be food safe with my pal, Win.

Ok, so we know the basics. But what about all those issues that pop up at different times in our and our children’s lives? What foods should you avoid during pregnancy in order to stay food safe and to reduce the risk of foodborne illness? There are many things to consider, but here are a few tidbits – one mom to all of you out there:

Pregnancy

As a mom of two young boys and another baby on the way (due in February!), pregnancy concerns have come up a few times already.  During pregnancy, symptoms caused by foodborne illnesses may be more severe, and some foodborne illnesses, such as Listeriosis can harm the development of your unborn baby. There are just a few categories of foods that you should avoid to prevent foodborne illnesses from harming you and your baby. The only other thing you need to do is follow the basics, as usual!
 
• Avoid raw or undercooked meat, poultry, and seafood.  Cook these foods to the appropriate internal temperature.

• Heat lunchmeats to a steaming temperature before eating.

• Do not eat soft cheeses such as Brie, Camembert, and bleu cheese, unless it is made with pasteurized milk. The label should say, “made with pasteurized milk.”

• Do not consume raw milk or other unpasteurized dairy products.

• Wash your hands whenever you clean up after pets or other animals.

• Keep your refrigerator at 40 degrees or below

For more information on food safety during pregnancy, check out the following handout: Listeriosis and Pregnancy: What’s Your Risk?

Infants

Infants place quite a few nutrition responsibilities on their moms and dads! In addition to making sure they get the right foods, follow the following tips for a successful and food safe first year:

• Prepare and store formula and breast milk correctly. For more information on storage and handling, visit government websites on breast milk and infant formula.

• Don’t give babies honey or corn syrup (light or dark) until after they reach one year. These foods can harbor bacteria spores that may cause infant botulism. Infant botulism is a rare but potentially life-threatening foodborne illness.

• If you are making your own baby food, make sure that you prepare and store foods correctly. After preparation, baby food should be stored in the refrigerator for no more than 24 hours and kept in the freezer for less than one month.

Toddlers and School-Agers

The comings and goings of toddlers and school-age children can present their own food safety challenges. Help stay on top of your children’s health by sticking to the food safety basics and doing the following:

• Always encourage children to wash their hands before and after eating, preparing meals, and going to the bathroom. This is a simple step that is often forgotten by our kids on the go! Also, make sure that your children’s school has a hand washing policy for all students before and after meals.

• Be sure to wash your child’s lunchbox or bag at least every other day. Throw it in the dishwasher or washing machine to get out the crumbs and spills that may harbor bacteria.

These helpful tips can help keep you and your family food safe.  What are some of the things you do to teach your kids to keep food safety in mind?

Keeping the Kids Food Safe” by Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, MS, RD originally appeared on the International Food Information Council’s Food Insight Blog on Sept. 20, 2010.  Republished with permission.

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