Teaching Kids Food Hygiene
Health and safety: words that go together like Laurel and Hardy bread and cheese, bacteria and sickness!
Okay, perhaps the last two didn’t spring to mind as a natural pairing but one can easily lead to the other if basic rules of hygiene aren’t followed.
In Kitchen safety for kids we remind ourselves of good safety practice in the kitchen; here we want to look at ways of showing kids the health dangers and how to avoid them.
Back to BasicsIf you can help kids understand why it’s necessary to wash their hands, they’re more likely to remember to put it into practice.Food hygiene is all about preventing the spread of bacteria that can cause disease. Bacteria are living organisms just like you and me. The fact that you can’t see them doesn’t mean that they can’t cause more problems than the naughtiest kid!
Like us, to live and grow, bacteria need food and moisture, a warm home and time. Here’s a little experiment your kids can do to see for themselves how bacteria spread.
Give your kids some pieces of fruit: half a lemon, some orange segments, a piece of peach – but not apple as it takes too long to go mouldy. Ask them to deliberately drop it on the pavement or in the garden, then pick it up and put it into a clear plastic bag along with a piece of damp cotton wool. Fasten the bag securely and leave in a warm and dark place for a few days.
Check it each day and your kids will see the mould develop. Explain to them that this is the bacteria spreading (and that when food is mouldy they shouldn’t eat it).
To help keep as safe as possible, there are plenty of things you can encourage your kids to do.
How we Keep FoodHow we store food is very important in the fight against bacteria. Many of the foods we buy have recommendations for storage on their labels but there are some basic rules.
- Keep chilled food in the fridge with raw meats at the bottom (this prevents any blood that escapes from the meat dropping onto other food and contaminating it).
- Keep frozen food in the freezer and don’t re-freeze defrosted food.
- Don’t leave food out uncovered.
- Allow hot food to cool before putting in the fridge as hot food will raise the temperature in the fridge.
- ALWAYS WASH YOUR HANDS BEFORE TOUCHING FOOD! This is even more important if you’ve just been to the toilet or have earth on your hands.
- You shouldn’t really wash your hands in the same sink that you do dishes in.
- Wash your hands with soap and make sure that you scrub them all over – don’t just dip your fingers under a tap!
- Wash your hands frequently while cooking especially after touching raw meat.
- Use different chopping boards for meat and vegetables. Having a selection of different coloured boards makes this easier.
- Scrub the chopping boards thoroughly after use. Hard plastic ones are best.
- Before starting to cook, make sure your kids are wearing aprons, have hair tied back, and have short sleeves or rolled up sleeves that can’t catch in anything.
- Don’t sneeze or cough over the food! Turn away, and wash your hands afterwards.
- Don’t play with your hair or nose! Wash your hands after touching either.
- Any cuts or scratches should be covered with a plaster, ideally blue – so it can be seen if it drops in the cake mixture!
CookingTo kill bacteria:
- Make sure fish and meat are thoroughly cooked.
- Chilled cooked food – either your own left-overs or ready meals from the supermarket - poses a special risk as research has shown it to be particularly high in bacteria, so make sure it’s piping hot all the way through before taking it to the table.
- Eggs for young children, who are especially vulnerable, should be cooked until the yolk is hard.
If you can get your kids to put these things into practice, they’ll be well on their way to keeping themselves protected from bacteria.
But don’t worry too much if they slip up sometimes!