Food safety is important for everyone, as it helps ensure we’re not exposed to bugs called pathogens that can give us food poisoning. It’s especially important when you’re preparing and cooking food for young children whose bodies can find it harder to fight off food poisoning. Here are the habits you need to get into.
Avoid the danger zone
The bacteria responsible for food poisoning flourishes at temperatures above 5C and below 60C. Make sure your fridge is set below 5C, and your freezer below -15C.
Know the high-risk foods
Some foods are more prone to contamination than others. That high-risk list includes chicken, turkey, pork, lamb and beef, smallgoods including ham, seafood, eggs and dairy foods. It also includes ready-made salads and fruit salads and cooked rice and cooked pasta.
If you have bought chilled or frozen food at the supermarket, do your best to maintain their chilled temperature until you get home. Keep the cold foods away from other foods in the car, and move them straight to the fridge or freezer when you get home. If your journey is likely to take 30 minutes or more, store your shopping in an insulated bag. And if frozen food does start to thaw before you get home, don’t try to refreeze it. Re-frozen food is highly susceptible to food-poisoning bacteria.
Know how to store it raw
Always store raw food in a sealed container so that bacteria can’t cross-contaminate the cooked food in your fridge. If possible, store it on the lowest shelf so there’s no risk of drips getting into any cooked food you have stored.
Know how to store cooked food
When storing cooked food, wait until the steam stops rising then put it into a sealed container and stash it in the fridge. Don’t leave it sitting around on the kitchen bench; two hours should be the absolute maximum.
Ground rules on the kitchen bench
Again, it’s important to keep any bacteria present in raw foods away from the cooked foods. While the raw food is likely to be cooked to a heat that will kill off the problematic bacteria (75C), the cooked food may not be exposed to such high temperatures when being reheated. Make sure that the utensils and chopping surfaces you use for raw foods are washed thoroughly before being used for cooked foods.
Stay away from raw eggs
Eggshells carry some rather dangerous bacteria that’s easily transferred to foods made with raw eggs, such as mayonnaise and eggnog. Adults can usually stomach those sorts of foods, but it’s safer not to serve them at all to young children.
Know the reheating rules
Food needs to reach a temperature of 75C for you to be confident that food-poisoning bacteria has been eliminated. If you’re heating up food for your toddler, make sure it is really steaming hot before you take it off the stove. If you’re using a microwave, be aware that the food may be heated unevenly so stir it a couple of times during heating. Of course, you can’t serve it to your toddler at that temperature, but your aim should be to cool it as quickly as possible. Try cutting food into smaller portions, or putting it in a sealed container and standing it in a shallow tray of cool water. Don’t ever keep or reheat food from your toddler’s bowl – it will likely have been contaminated by your child’s skin and saliva while eating.
Brought to you by Coles Baby & Toddler Club