Teaching Children Food Safety Lessons
Rubbery eggs, burned pancakes, undercooked bacon — what mother doesn't treasure the memory of the little hands that cooked a Mother's Day breakfast! Mother's Day is the perfect time for dads and other caregivers to teach children simple food safety lessons while supervising the preparation of a special meal made for Mom.
Mother's Day has been officially celebrated the second Sunday in May since 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson signed the day into national observance. Ever since, children have been lovingly — yet messily — preparing breakfast in bed and other meals for their moms.
It is important for children to learn and practice safe food handling techniques so moms don't end up becoming the patient from a foodborne illness. Not washing hands, leaving perishable food sitting out too long at room temperature, and not cooking food to a high enough temperature to destroy bacteria are several main causes of foodborne illness.
FSIS encourages both children and adults to put these four easy to remember lessons — Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill — into practice in order to Be Food Safe on Mother's Day and every day:
* Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often.
* Separate: Separate raw meat, poultry and egg products from cooked foods to avoid cross-contamination.
* Cook: Raw meat, poultry and egg products need to be cooked thoroughly. Use a food thermometer to ensure foods have reached a high enough temperature to kill any harmful bacteria that might be present.
* Chill: Refrigerate promptly.
Lesson 1. Stay Clean
Bacteria can be hiding just about anywhere: in the kitchen, on a plate and on hands. These invisible enemies can multiply and make Mom sick. Cooks of every age should wash their hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after food preparation, after playing with pets, and after using the bathroom.
All fruits and vegetables should be washed with running water before cutting or eating them. Only put food on clean surfaces. Always use clean knives, forks, spoons and plates.
Lesson 2. Keep Raw and Cooked Foods Separated
Cross-contamination is the technical description for how bacteria can be spread from one food product or surface to another. This is especially true when handling raw meat, poultry, eggs and seafood, so keep these foods and their juice away from ready-to-eat foods.
Always use a clean plate. Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry and seafood. Never put food on a dirty table or counter. Always wash cutting boards, dishes and utensils with hot, soapy water after they come in contact with raw meat, poultry, eggs and seafood.
Lesson 3. Cook Food to Safe Temperatures
Foodborne bacteria can't be seen, smelled or tasted. Use a food thermometer to make sure food has reached a USDA recommended minimum internal temperature. No matter how old the chef, you can't tell food is cooked safely by how it looks.
Always place the food thermometer in the thickest part of the food, away from bone and fat, to check the temperature. When cooking in a microwave oven, stir, cover, and rotate food for even cooking. It's important to let food stand for a few minutes after cooking it in the microwave. Always cook eggs before eating them. When cooked, eggs should be firm, not runny.
Lesson 4. Keep Perishable Foods Cold
Bacteria need time and the right environment to grow and multiply - such as moisture and warmth. Most foodborne illness-causing organisms grow quickly above 40° Fahrenheit. Some bacteria can double their numbers every 20 minutes at temperatures above 40° Fahrenheit. In a few hours, bacteria on food can cause an illness or form "toxins" that might not be fully destroyed by cooking.
Some foods that need to stay cold (at 40° Fahrenheit or below) include sandwiches or salads made with meat and poultry; tuna and egg salad; milk, cheese, and yogurt; and peeled or cut fruits and vegetables.
Finally, any leftovers from Mom's special meal should be refrigerated within two hours. Perishable food left out for more than two hours should be thrown out and not fed to the family pet. Even pets are susceptible to foodborne bacteria. To reheat leftovers safely, make sure they reach 165" Fahrenheit as measured with a food thermometer.