Food safety and sanitation are important aspects of providing healthy food for children. Improper food preparation, handling, or storage can quickly result in food being contaminated with germs that may lead to illnesses such as hepatitis A or diarrheal diseases if the contaminated food is eaten.
Understanding and following a few basic principles can help prevent food spoilage and transmission of infections.
1. Keep food at safe serving and storage temperatures at all times to prevent spoiling and the risk of transmitting disease. Food should be kept at 40 degrees F or colder or at 140 degrees F or warmer. The range between 40 degrees and 140 degrees is considered the "danger zone" because within this range bacteria grow most easily.
2. Leftovers, including hot foods such as soups or sauces, should be refrigerated immediately. They should not be left to cool at room temperature.
3. Using shallow pans or bowls will facilitate rapid cooling.
4. Frozen foods should be thawed in the refrigerator. They should not sit on countertops or in the sink.
5. Use only approved food-preparation equipment, dishes, and utensils.
6. Only use cutting boards that can be disinfected (made of nonporous materials such as glass, Formica, or plastic). Use separate boards for ready-to-eat foods (including foods to be eaten raw) and for foods that are to be cooked, such as meats.
7. Use proper hand-washing techniques.
8. Don't handle food after you change a diaper without first washing your hands thoroughly. Use soap and hot water and dry them on a clean towel.
9. Don't prepare or serve food if you have diarrhea, unusually loose stools, or any other gastrointestinal symptoms of an illness, or if you have infected skin sores or injuries, or open cuts. Small, uninfected cuts may be covered with nonporous latex gloves.
10. Supervise meals and snack times. Make sure children do not share plates, utensils, or food that is not individually wrapped.
11. Eating utensils that are dropped on the floor should be washed with soap and water before using.
12. Discard food that is dropped on the floor. Remove leftovers from the eating area after each snack or meal.
13. Clean, sanitize, and properly store food-service equipment and supplies.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Reviewed 2/02 by Jane Forester, MD
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.