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Kids in the Kitchen
Edited by: Mary Schroeder, M.S., R.D. & Pat Kendall, Ph.D., R.D., Colorado State - Winter/Spring 2005
It's not unusual these days for school-age kids to take an active role in preparing foods for themselves or other family members. Whether it's making cookies from scratch or heating soup in the microwave, it's important for both kids and their parents to be aware of safety concerns. Before letting kids have the run of the kitchen, it's a good idea to plan a "food safety workshop" to show them some basic tips. For starters, the USDA has developed the following quiz for parents and kids to take together:
Quiz: True or False-
- Put backpacks on the floor, not on the counter.
- Washing your hands with warm water and soap washes bacteria down the drain.
- You need to wash fruits and vegetables under cold running water before eating.
- Cooked foods should not be put on the same plate that held raw meat or poultry (unless the plate has been thoroughly washed).
- Lunch meat or deli meat does not need to be refrigerated until the package is opened.
- Don't leave leftovers on the counter for more than 2 hours.
- Always wash your hands after touching raw meat or poultry.
- Eating homemade cookie dough is not safe because it may contain raw eggs.
(Answers: 1, 2, 3, 4 - True. 5 - False. 6, 7, 8 - True.)
Children must be old enough to understand the science behind these kitchen warnings. For example, learning how bacteria grow and cause foodborne illness can help them understand WHY food needs to be put back in the refrigerator as soon as possible. Additionally, children can learn to use a food thermometer to check for safety and doneness. In order to safely use a microwave oven, children must be able to read and understand directions. Important tips for using a microwave include:
- Reheat hot dogs until they are hot and steaming. Pierce hot dogs with a fork before putting them into the microwave oven to keep them from exploding.
- Foods and liquids heat unevenly in the microwave, so stir or rotate food midway through cooking. If you don't, you'll have cold spots where harmful bacteria can survive.
- Cover a dish of food for microwaving with a lid or plastic wrap and wrap loose to let steam escape. The moist heat will help destroy harmful bacteria.
- To prevent burns, carefully remove food from the microwave oven. Use potholders and uncover foods away from your face so steam can escape.
- Do not use plastic containers such as margarine tubs or other one-time use containers in the microwave. They can warp or melt, possibly causing harmful chemicals to get in the food.
- Do not use metal or aluminum foil containers in the microwave. They can get too hot and burn. Use only glass and other containers labeled "made for microwave use."
- Throw away leftovers (and any perishable food) that stays out longer than two hours - or one hour if it's over 90 ºF. When in doubt, throw it out!
Kid-friendly messages such as "Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill" offered by FightBac® can posted on the refrigerator. These and other education materials can be found online under the Partnership for Food Safety Education.Sources:
- Home Alone? After School Snacks and Food Safety USDA Quiz for Parents and Kids. By Susan Conley and Steven Cohen. USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service-News Release. Sept. 7, 2004. Available at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/News_&_Events/NR_090704_01/index.asp.
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