When we prepare, cook, and serve food, often safety is not the first thing in our minds, but it is definitely something that everyone should consider every single day. Unfortunately, food related illnesses affect thousands of people in the United States each year, and many of these people include children. Food safety is extremely important, particularly in a school or other educational setting where children can often be more susceptible to food-borne illnesses.
Following the rules of food safety is of the utmost importance to anyone who cooks for themselves or for others. Simple steps can be taken to help ensure that all food consumed is clean and healthy for children and adults to eat. Following these simple steps every time food is made and served gets everyone into the good habit of practicing food safety, and helps to serve as role model for children. Washing fruits and vegetables under running water for a few minutes before preparation can help to clean off bacteria and any chemicals that might remain on the surface. Washing hands correctly and often with soap and warm water is also extremely important, since a large percentage of food related illness is related to food preparers not properly washing their hands. Unwashed hands can carry bacteria which can then be transferred to food, so washing hands is essential. Teaching kids to wash their hands every time they use the restroom and before and after eating is a good way to get them in the habit at an early age.
There are other things that can be done to make sure our food is safe to eat. Making sure food is stored at the proper temperature is really an essential part of correct food preparation. Meats of all kinds, dairy products like cheese and milk, and fresh fruits and vegetables should be kept cool and stored in a proper refrigerated unit until it is ready to be served. In addition, meat should always be cooked properly and at the correct temperature to help prevent sickness. Other foods should be chilled once prepared if they are not served right away. A clean kitchen and a clean workspace are also very important elements to help avoid bacteria and germs. All cooking surfaces should be kept clean and dry. This also includes making sure all dishes and cooking utensils are washed the right way and only clean knives and forks are used for both preparation and eating. Passing this information along to children can help to make sure everyone stays happy and healthy when they cook and eat, and will help them avoid getting sick from an unclean kitchen or food that is not prepared properly.
Sharing simple advice and getting children into the habit of keeping hands and foods clean as well as storing and cooking them properly early on in life will help them keep these good habits for a lifetime. Making it fun through lessons in the classroom, fun games and activities, and watching food safety related videos can be a great help in teaching children how to handle food right and how to help out in the kitchen in a safe way. The resources below will help to provide resources for teachers and others to use in day to day education and in their curriculum to help kids learn all about food safety.