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Food Safety for Your Family

KidsHealth.org
Jun 20, 2006
You probably have lots of concerns about the foods you give to your child. Is it a nutritious meal? Will your child eat it? Is there too much fat? But one thing that may not cross your mind as you’re slicing and dicing in the kitchen is food safety.
Why is food safety so important? Proper food preparations are necessary to prevent your family from becoming sick from food-borne illnesses caused by bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter and Listeria (which can cause symptoms such as diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and dehydration). Food safety precautions include knowing how to select foods in the grocery store, how to store them, how to cook them, and how to clean up afterward.


So what can you do to make sure your kitchen and the foods you prepare are safe? Keep reading to find out.
Buying Food
The grocery store is your first stop on the way to food safety. To ensure freshness, refrigerated items (such as meat, dairy, eggs, and fish) should be put in your cart last. If your drive home is longer than 1 hour, you might consider putting these items in a cooler to keep them fresh.
When purchasing packaged meat, poultry, or fish, be sure to check the expiration date on the label. Even if the expiration date is still acceptable, don’t buy fish or meats that have any unusual odors or look strange.
It’s also important to check inside egg cartons – make sure the eggs, which should be grade A or AA, are clean and free from cracks.
Don’t buy: fruit with broken skin (bacteria can enter through the opening in the skin and contaminate the fruit) unpasteurized ciders or juices (they can contain harmful bacteria) prestuffed turkeys or chickens
Refrigerating and Freezing
Before you put the groceries away, check the temperature of your refrigerator and freezer. Your refrigerator should be set for 40 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius), and your freezer should be set to 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 degrees Celsius) or lower. These chilly temperatures will help keep any bacteria in your foods from multiplying. If your refrigerator doesn’t have a thermostat, it’s a good idea to invest in a thermometer for the fridge and freezer.
Of course, refrigerated and frozen items should be put away first. Here are some quick tips to remember for foods that need to be kept cool: Keep eggs in the original carton on a shelf in your refrigerator (most refrigerator doors don’t keep eggs cold enough). Put meat, poultry, and fish in separate plastic bags so that their juices don’t get on your other foods. Freeze – or cook – raw meat, poultry, or fish within 2 days. Store raw ground meats in the freezer for a maximum of 4 months. Freeze cooked meats for a maximum of 3 months. Remove stuffing from poultry after cooking and store it separately in the refrigerator.
Preparing and Cooking
It’s a good idea to follow these handling and cooking guidelines to help prevent food-borne illnesses in your family.
Raw Meat, Poultry, Fish, and Egg Products Wash your hands with hot water and soap before preparing foods and after handling raw meat, poultry, fish, or egg products. Keep raw meats and their juices away from other foods in the refrigerator and on countertops. Use separate utensils for cooking and serving raw meat, poultry, fish, or eggs (or wash the utensils in hot, soapy water before using them to serve). Never put cooked food on a dish that was holding raw meat, poultry, or fish. Thaw meat, poultry, and fish in the refrigerator or microwave, never at room temperature. Cook thawed meat, poultry, and fish immediately. Throw away any leftover uncooked meat, poultry, or fish marinades. Do not allow raw eggs to sit at room temperature for more than 2 hours to reduce the risk of Salmonella infection. Thoroughly cook eggs. Never serve foods that contain raw eggs, such as uncooked cookie dough, eggnog, mousse, and homemade ice cream. If you want to use these recipes, substitute pasteurized eggs (found in the grocery store’s dairy case) for raw eggs. Cook meat until the center is no longer pink and the juices run clear. Cook crumbled ground beef or poultry until it’s no longer pink.
Use a meat thermometer to tell whether meats are cooked thoroughly. (Place the thermometer in the thickest portion of the meat and away from bones or fat.) Most thermometers indicate at which temperature the type of meat is safely cooked, or you can refer to these recommendations: poultry: 180 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit (82 to 85 degrees Celsius) pork: 137 degrees Fahrenheit (58 degrees Celsius) ground beef patties and loaves: 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 degrees Celsius) ground poultry patties and loaves: 165 degrees Fahrenheit (74 degrees Celsius) leftovers: at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit (74 degrees Celsius)