CHILDREN ABOUT FOOD SAFETY
The USDA’s Food Safety and
Inspection Service, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention stress that everyone is at risk for food
poisoning – an illness that comes from eating contaminated food. However, some people, such as young children,
are at greater risk for experiencing a more serious illness or even death
should they get a foodborne illness. A child’s immune system (the body’s
defense to detect and destroy pathogens) is not as developed as an adult’s.
Symptoms of food poisoning
may occur within minutes to weeks after consuming contaminated food and often
present themselves as flu-like symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or
fever. Because the symptoms are often
flu-like, many people may not recognize that the illness is caused by harmful
bacteria or other pathogens in food.Some microorganisms, such as Listeria
monocytogenes and Clostridium
botulinum, cause far more serious symptoms than vomiting and diarrhea.
In some people, especially children, hemolytic
uremic syndrome (HUS) can result from infection by a particular strain of
bacteria, E. coli 0157:H7, and can
lead to kidney failure and death. HUS is
a rare disorder that affect primarily children between the ages of 1 and 10
years and is the leading cause of acute renal failure in previously healthy
children. A child may become infected
after consuming contaminated food or beverages, such as meat, especially
undercooked ground beef, unpasteurized juices, contaminated water, or through
contact with an infected person. The
most common symptoms of HUS infection are vomiting, abdominal pain, and
diarrhea, which may be bloody.
One of the best ways to teach
food safety is to practice it – and to be vocal about why it is being
practiced. This needs to begin as soon
as the child is aware of and is taking an interest in food (beyond throwing
it!). As the data shows, food safety is
particularly important for young children. In addition to hand washing and good
hygiene, their food safety is tightly linked to the food safety behaviors of
the parents and caregivers.
Parents and caregivers can
help prevent illnesses by instructing the children to follow these
· Place books, book bags, and sporting equipment on the
floor, not on eating counters or the kitchen table where germs could be
· Clean out lunch boxes and throw away perishable
sandwiches or other "refrigerator type” foods, such as yogurt tubes or cheese
sticks, left over from lunch.
· Wash hands before making or eating a snack. Hands carry lots of germs, and not washing
hands is a top cause of foodborne illness.
· Always use clean spoons, forks, and plates.
· Wash fruits and vegetables with running tap water
before you eat them.
· Do not eat bread, cheese, or soft fruits or vegetables
that are bruised or have spots of mold.
· Do not eat unbaked cookie dough because it may contain
raw eggs that can have Salmonella bacteria.
· Do not leave cold items, like milk, lunchmeat,
hardcooked eggs, or yogurt, out on the counter at room temperature. Put these foods back in the refrigerator as
soon you’ve fixed your snack.
· Don’t eat any perishable food left out of the
refrigerator, such as pizza – even if it isn’t topped with meat. Food should not be left in the temperature
"Danger Zone” of 41 to 135 degrees F for more than 2 hours (1 hour if the
ambient temperature is 90 degrees F or higher.
· When reheating leftovers or packaged food in a
microwave, use a food thermometer to make sure food has reached a temperature
high enough to destroy harmful bacteria. These foods should reach 165 degrees F.
These basics are important in
keeping every child safe from foodborne illness.
By: Carlene Whitt, Environmentalist