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Food-Borne Illnesses Prevention

Those caring for children need to know how to guard against food-borne illness. It’s never too early to be a good example for children, with proper hand washing, cleanliness, and careful preparation and storage of food. There are 3 basic facts to keep in mind when preparing food.

  1. Bacteria rapidly multiply in foods that are lukewarm or kept at room temperature. Therefore, keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
  2. Bacteria are often present in raw foods. Thoroughly cook foods of animal origin, and thoroughly wash vegetables and fruits that are eaten raw.
  3. Bacteria and viruses are easily transferred from our bodies to food and from one food to another. Wash hands frequently and encourage your children to do the same. Never put a spoon used to taste food back into food without washing it. Keep raw foods and cooked foods separate. Wash knives, cutting boards, and other utensils used for preparing one food before reusing for another.

You can reduce your family’s risk of food-borne illness by choosing foods in good condition and following a few simple rules for handling, storage, and preparation.

Buying Foods

  • If you notice unsatisfactory food handling at markets or restaurants, bring it to the manager’s attention.
  • Check “Sell by” and “Best before” dates to avoid buying outdated items.
  • Don’t buy damaged cans or packages.
  • Make sure frozen foods are frozen solid, with no ice or water marks indicating the product has been thawed and refrozen.
  • Check that foods from the refrigerator case are cold when purchased.
  • Inspect eggs and reject any that are dirty, cracked, or unrefrigerated; check freshness dates on the carton.
  • Bag meats separately from fresh produce.
  • Avoid unpasteurized or raw juices and milk, as well as cheese made from unpasteurized or raw milk.

Storing Foods

  • Store foods at correct temperatures. Storage at improper temperatures is the most common cause of outbreaks of food-borne illness. Refrigerate or freeze foods as soon as you unpack them. Wrap raw meat, poultry, and fish so they don’t come into contact with other foods, especially foods that are eaten raw.
  • Keep refrigerated produce in the crisper. Keep other fruits and vegetables at cool room temperature. Protect potatoes from light (a paper shopping bag works well) to guard against the formation of toxic solanine compounds, which are indicated by a green color. Discard potatoes that have turned green and sprouted.
  • Store and use cans and packages in date order.
  • Store grains and cereals in cupboards or in opaque containers; their vitamin content deteriorates on exposure to light. Similarly, store oils away from light to prevent them from turning rancid.

Preparing Food

  • Wash hands for at least 10 to 20 seconds with soap and warm water before preparing foods, and wash again periodically as necessary. If children are helping, tell them to wash long enough to sing their ABCs slowly. If you wear rubber gloves, wash your hands with the gloves on.
  • Follow the safe-handling labels on prepackaged raw meat and poultry.
  • Defrost frozen foods in the refrigerator or under running cold water, not on the countertop or in a bowl of water at room temperature.
  • Use separate cutting boards for preparing raw meats and raw produce.
  • After using a cutting board or a knife for raw meat, fish, or poultry, wash it with soap and hot water. Rinse the cutting board with a mild bleach solution (¼ cup of bleach to a gallon of water) before reusing it for any food. Wash plastic cutting boards in the dishwasher, if you have one. Cook meat to the recommended temperature and use a meat thermometer if you have difficulty judging when meat is done. Beef and lamb can be eaten rare to medium, provided the internal temperature has reached 140°F, which will kill most bacteria.
Last Updated
Nutrition: What Every Parent Needs to Know (Copyright © American Academy of Pediatrics 2011)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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