Food safety and your family

Food safety is an important issue for everyone, irrespective of age, gender, ethnicity or background. Everyone needs to understand about the right and wrong way of handling food and why there are various guidelines about hygiene and safety.

As an adult you are aware of the dangers of eating contaminated food and will take steps to reduce the risk. But children especially toddlers are much less aware and do not consider safety and hygiene issues when they want something to eat.

Children and food safety

Toddlers especially will put any object in their mouth irrespective of where it has been and this equally applies to food. They will quite happily put an item of food into their mouth which has previously, been lying on the floor or come into contact with the family pet.

But this can lead to conditions such as food poisoning and this affects children to a greater degree than adults. Children are considered a ‘high risk’ group for food poisoning along with the elderly and people with poorly functioning immune systems.

This means that they are more likely to develop a serious form of food poisoning or complications.

Find out more in our high risk for food poisoning section.

Bacteria, viruses and parasites are all responsible for food poisoning. Bacteria such as campylobacter, e coli and salmonella are found in various foods which cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea and these are miserable to say the least!

So, it is important to keep you and your family safe from these and many other types of food poisoning. We cannot guarantee that you and your family will never get food poisoning but you can take precautions to reduce this risk.

Food safety precautions

This includes the buying, preparing, cooking and storing of food as well as cleaning and general hygiene. When buying food do the following:

    • Choose foods carefully during your weekly shopping trip or any time you visit the supermarket. This means looking at labels to check the ‘use by’ date as well as the nutritional information. Avoid any foods with damaged packaging or tins which are split or dented. Check cartons of eggs to see that they are clean and unbroken.
    • Avoid fruit or vegetables with damaged skins or that appear to have started to decompose.

When preparing food do the following:

  • Check the temperature of your fridge and freezer
  • Store eggs in their carton on a shelf in your fridge
  • Keep raw meat/poultry separate from cooked food
  • Always wash your hands before and after you handle food.
  • Wash your hands every time you handle raw meat, fish or poultry.
  • Ensure that frozen foods have thoroughly defrosted before use. Defrost them in the fridge or use the microwave rather than leaving them to thaw out on a kitchen surface.
  • Use separate chopping boards and utensils for raw food and wash these immediately after use. Do not use the same chopping board for raw and cooked foods.
  • Rinse off soil and other dirt from unwashed fruit and vegetables before eating.

When cooking food do the following:

  • Check cooking instructions carefully. Ensure that food is cooked at the right temperature and for the right amount of time.
  • Do not eat undercooked food.
  • Do not serve meals which contain raw eggs, for example homemade ice cream. This is particularly important for pregnant women.
  • Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of food during cooking.
  • Be careful when reheating food

When storing food do the following:

  • Do not allow cooked and raw food to touch one another
  • Do not place opened tins of food in the fridge
  • Do not overfill the fridge
  • Put opened jars and bottles in the fridge but use them within a couple of days.
  • Place leftovers in the fridge. Put them in sealable containers and use as soon as possible.
  • Ready to eat foods such as creamy desserts, cakes, cooked meats etc need to be kept in the fridge.
  • Check that your fridge is set at the correct temperature. This is below 5C.
  • If you put cooked rice in the fridge then remember to use this within a day. Do not reheat it.

For more information on food safety visit our preventing food poisoning section.

All of these apply to food safety. But what is equally as important is food hygiene. This means keeping the kitchen clean and free from germs and bacteria.

Very young children such as toddlers are at that stage where they are crawling and that includes your kitchen floor. So it is important that any spilt foods or liquids are wiped up immediately and that the floor itself is kept clean and disinfected.

Cleaning/general hygiene

This is usually down to common sense and includes:

  • Wiping down kitchen surfaces after use
  • Washing (or using a dishwasher) kitchen equipment, utensils, chopping boards etc after use.
  • Placing leftover food in the fridge
  • Washing your hands after you have visited the toilet and before you prepare food.
  • Use disposable paper towels to remove juices/blood from raw meat or poultry.
  • Exchange stained or old tea towels for new ones. Do not use a tea towel to dry your hands after handling raw food as this can spread bacteria. Use paper towels instead.
  • Wash dish cloths and tea towels on a regular basis.
  • Every so often, disinfect your kitchen sink and drains with a commercial cleaning product.

Following these precautions will ensure that you and your family do not become the next victims of food poisoning.

Food Poisoning Guide

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