Safety First For Holiday Food Preparation

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Cooking Safely

Cooking together and preparing meals for the holidays can be a great activity for parents and children. However, parents should be aware of hidden dangers in kitchens and food preparation. There are precautions parents can take to have an enjoyable and safe cooking experience with their children.

When working together in the kitchen, parents should closely supervise their children at all times. They should also take time to store all hazardous substances out of the reach of children, including cleaning supplies and alcohol.

"Parents should make sure all alcoholic beverages and alcohol used for cooking cannot be easily reached by children and possibly ingested," says Donna Parnell-Beasley, R.N., M.N.Sc., Trauma Program Coordinator at Arkansas Children's Hospital. "Parents should also be aware of the dangers of food sitting out, both in terms of the risk of food-borne illness and the risk to very young children who could help themselves and choke while others are distracted."

If you think your child may have ingested a poison or hazardous substance, Parnell-Beasley suggests calling the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Parents should also keep a close eye on hot liquids, surfaces and steam. Burns in the kitchen are very common injuries. Scald burns from hot liquid or steam are the most common type of burns among children 4 years old and under. A child can suffer a third-degree burn after just three seconds of exposure to 140-degree water.

"When cooking, keep pot handles turned toward the back of the stove," adds Parnell-Beasley. "Keep electrical cords out of reach. Also be aware that children may venture into the kitchen while you are cooking. Be mindful of their presence to prevent inadvertent burns from hot food items."

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Parnell also suggests using caution when placing hot liquids and foods on tablecloths. Curious children or those who just started walking may use the hanging edges to pull up on or to satisfy their curiosity.

Safe Kids USA recommends these precautions against kitchen burns:

  • Never leave a hot stove unattended. (Unattended food on the stove is the number one cause of home fires.)

  • Never hold a child while cooking or carrying hot items.

  • Cook on back burners whenever possible, and turn all handles toward the back of the stove.

  • Don't allow loose-fitting clothing in the kitchen.

  • Keep hot foods and liquids away from the edges of counters and tables.

"I always remind parents that though the holidays are a busy time, there is no better protection for your child than the supervision of a responsible adult to keep them happy and safe," says Parnell-Beasley.

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