For parents, there’s no secret manual with all the food safety rules that should be kept in mind when preparing for and enjoying a cooking activity with kids. As one guide puts it, “cooking with kids can be an entertaining and educational experience. However, there are certain aspects of cooking that can also be dangerous if proper care is not taken.”
Such dangers are why RS Components has created a guide to help parents teach food safety awareness to children, even at a young age, as well as provide tips and advice on how to teach youngsters about food safety in a fun and exciting way. Some of the elements in the guide are:
Food Safety Tip 1: Safety Begins with Food Shopping
Children should learn the rules of food safety from the beginning of the preparation process. A trip to buy food can be made into an educational adventure. Get kids excited by selecting a recipe together, and then make a special shopping list. At the store, with list in hand, teach your children food safety rules for while shopping:
Rule 1 – Check the Quality of the Food
When shopping for fruit, don’t buy anything with broken skin, which can serve as a doorway for bacteria. Let your child play the role of the fruit inspector who checks the quality of your selections. The food inspector can also check the expiration dates on all foods, bur especially on refrigerated foods such as meat, fish and dairy products. Any food that is past the expiration date — or will be by the time you plan to eat it — doesn’t belong in the cart or basket.
Rules 2 – Keep Raw Meat Away from Fruits and Vegetables
When placing food in the cart, keep raw meat and fish away from foods like fruits and vegetables, which you’ll eat raw. Children can be in charge of designating sections of the cart for each type of food and making sure they don’t touch or drip.
Rule 3 – Shop in the right order
Dry goods should be the first items to get crossed off your list because they are least likely to get damaged. Fruits and other soft items should be selected next so they won’t be crushed under the dry goods.
After everything else, pick out the refrigerated foods, ensuring they stay chilled for the longest possible amount of time, instead of lingering in a warm shopping cart. Lastly, get your frozen items and head straight to the checkout. Keeping frozen foods in your cart for too long may lead them to start thawing or melting, which can be a safety risk.
Children can play an essential role in making the quest for groceries successful. Young readers can practice their skills by keeping track of the list and marking off items.
Food Safety Tip 2: What to Wear When Putting Food Safety First
It is essential to show kids early on that they should wear the proper attire and accessories when preparing food. Children can be allowed to select their own cooking clothes to make it more fun. Be sure to apply the following.
Rule 1 – A Chef Is Not a Chef Without an Apron
Wearing an apron is synonymous with cooking, but it is not about style. An apron serves many purposes when it comes to kitchen hygiene. Most importantly, aprons protect skin from hot liquids and foods. If hot oil does splash or spill on the apron, it’s easy to immediately take the apron off and away from the skin.
Rule 2 – Keep Foreign Objects out of Food
No one likes hair or other foreign objects in food. In food hygiene, it’s important to be vigilant about what you can’t see as well. Contaminants like germs can get into food, putting people who eat the food at risk for illness. Kids are more likely than adults to be less careful with how they handle food, so parents should make sure that they provide children with the proper accessories to minimize contamination. Some examples of these accessories:
Hair Nets, Hair Ties or Hats: People with long hair should keep it tied back and out of the faces while working in the kitchen. This reduces the risk of stray hairs ending up in food. It also keeps children and adults from having to use their hands to brush their hair away from their faces, a move that can cross-contaminate food that is later touched. Short hair can be a problem as well, so hair nets are also have their place. Using a chef’s hat can keep hair tucked in and is fun for playing dress-up.
Disposable Gloves: One advantage of wearing gloves is that messy hands can simply be slipped off and thrown away. More importantly though, disposable gloves offer greater food safety protection than simply washing hands because they provide a barrier between food and contaminants hiding underneath nails. Disposable gloves also help prevent cross-contamination between different types of food, like raw chicken that needs to be cooked and vegetables that will be eaten raw. Use a new pair of gloves for handling different types of foods.
Food Safety Tip #3: Keep the Kitchen Clean and Sanitary
One of the keys to food safety is proper preparation of the kitchen space. Some tips for getting the space ready for cooking and cleaning up afterward include:
Rule 1 – Surfaces Should Be Squeaky Clean
It may be hard to keep surfaces clean in a household with children, but clean surfaces are a must when it comes to food safety. Countertops should be wiped clean right before use, preferably when kids are already sporting food safety gear. Only use cleaning products that are suitable for food contact surfaces in the kitchen. Using the wrong kind of product could expose food to dangerous toxins. Also, be sure to follow the directions on all cleaning products carefully.
Rule 2 – Hands Should Be Properly Washed
It’s a good idea for parents to supervise children ones during hand washing to ensure that a thorough job is done. The World Health Organization has a guide (at right) on how to wash hands properly. If the cooking process involves touching raw meat or fish, ensure that hands are washed again before touching any surfaces or other food.
Rule 3 – After Cooking, Clean up Is Essential
When the cooking is done, make sure children know there is still a bit of work to do. Cleaning up after cooking is just as important as the cooking itself. You should clean and sanitize all surfaces, using the same cleaning product you used before beginning the food preparation. Utensils should go into hot, soapy water. Cutting boards can harbour bacteria and therefore need special attention. They should not be washed with the utensils but instead washed separately in hot, soapy water and then deep cleaned on occasion. A cleaning solution of baking soda, salt and water can be used to scrub down your cutting boards.
Rule 4 – Preventing Accidents During Food Preparation
Kitchen accidents happen occasionally, but they can often be prevented. A few steps that you can take to make accidents less likely include not allowing running in the kitchen, being careful with knives, and wiping spills up right away.
Don’t let food safety mistakes, mixups and mishaps derail a fun and safe time in the kitchen. Follow the food safety tips and rules in the RS Components guide and enjoy preparing food with children while teaching them how to avoid food poisoning.
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