Food Safety guidelines/Just in time for Turkey leftovers
Thanksgiving is a holiday associated with lots of yummy leftovers so it's usually my signal to update my food safety post. If you ever watch the news you know that food contamination issues can happen all year round. This post will give you some safe guidelines for foods that you buy and cook. If you do a lot of eating out, restaurants are supposed to have their cleanliness rating publicly displayed. Check the bottom of the article for some great links on food storage guidelines; everything from egg safety and turkey leftovers to breastmilk storage.
It is certainly not a sterile world. As soon as they are able, your baby will start putting anything that they can reach into their mouths. You can't even begin to imagine the phone calls we get about the more disgusting items that some of our little patients have managed to get their hands and mouths on. Just this week we talked to parents of various kids who had possibly had a nibble or taste of the following things:
So yes, the world is full of germs, and while I don't generally get too concerned about a little dirt here or a big sloppy dog kiss there, foodborne bacteria can be nasty, and we need to minimize any exposure.There were over 300,000 reports of children under the age of five being impacted by tainted food last year alone.
Infants and young children are particularly vulnerable to foodborne illness because their immune systems are not developed enough to fight off infections. This is especially important for infants under 6 months of age. Extra care should be taken when handling and preparing their food and formula. Here are some basic food safety guidelines:
Wash hands for at least 20 seconds before food preparation. Soap is best. Hand sanitizer will do. Re-wash as needed after handling food that might carry germs. The most common offenders are poultry, meat, raw eggs.
Make sure kitchen towels and sponges are changed and cleaned frequently. Sponges can go through the dishwasher. Cloth can get easily contaminated and then spread germs. Watch out for potholders or other cloth items that come into contact with raw food.
Keep your refrigerator temperature at 40 degrees or colder. It is worth investing in an appliance thermometer so that you can keep track. All the science says that the 40 degree number is essential for keeping the bacteria from multiplying.
Your freezer should be below 0 degrees. To ensure the safety of your frozen food, you need to be sure that it has been actually kept constantly frozen. One clever trick to make sure of this is to keep a baggie filled with ice cubes in the freezer. If they remain cubes, you are in good shape; if they melt and refreeze as a block of ice that means that at some point your freezer was not cold enough. This can happen in a power outage or even if the door wasn't kept tightly closed. I am sad to say that if there was stored breastmilk in there that has thawed and refrozen, I would no longer consider it safe. Label things in your freezer and rotate so that you are using up older stuff first.
Check the dates of baby food jars and make sure the lid pops when you open them.
Don't put baby food back in the refrigerator if your child doesn't finish it and you used the "used" spoon to take the food directly from the jar. Your best bet - simply don't feed your baby directly from the jar. Instead, put a small serving of food on a clean dish. Add more as needed with a clean spoon. Remember that once saliva has come into contact with the food it is no longer sterile and some bacteria can grow quickly.
Powdered formula is NOT sterile. Don't mix up more than you need in advance. If the infant is less than 4 months, I would mix it with boiling water and let it cool.
Don't leave open containers of liquid or pureed baby food out at room temperature for more than two hours. Bacteria thrive in temperatures between 40-140 degrees
Don't store opened baby food in the refrigerator for more than three days. If you are not sure that the food is still safe, remember this saying: "If in doubt, throw it out." See links below for guidelines on how long food stays safe.
Make sure that foods are properly cooked. A food thermometer is the best tool for this.
For all of you "older kids" who will be baking this holiday season, watch out for the batter (I am a notorious offender.), Even one lick from raw food containing a contaminated egg can get you ill.
For all of you travelers: RESIST THE TEMPTATION. This is not an ideal time to have your baby try all sorts of new foods. This time of year we get calls from around the country from 'Pecan pie gone wrong' It is best to take your time with new foods in the comfort of your own home.( and emergency room)
"They had a taste of stuffing"
"What was in it?"
" I have no idea, oysters? chestnuts? eggs?"
You get the idea.....
Myth: Freezing food kills harmful bacteria that can cause food poisoning.
Fact: bacteria can survive freezing temperatures. When food is thawed, bacteria can still be present and can begin to multiply. Cooking food to the proper internal temperature is the best way to make sure any bacteria is killed.
Myth: vegetarians don't need to worry about food poisoning.
Fact: Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet, but like other foods they may carry a risk of foodborne illness. Always rinse produce well under running tap water. Never eat the pre-washed 'ready to eat' greens if they are past their freshness date or if they appear slimy.
Myth: Plastic or glass cutting boards don't hold harmful bacteria on their surfaces like wooden cutting boards do
Fact: Any type of cutting board can hold harmful bacteria on its surface. Regardless of the type of cutting board you use, it should be washed and sanitized after each use. Solid plastic, tempered glass, sealed granite, and hardwood cutting boards are dishwasher safe. However, wood laminates don't hold up well in the dishwasher. Once cutting boards of any type become excessively worn or develop hard-to-clean grooves, they should be discarded.
Myth: Locally-grown, organic foods will never give you food poisoning.
Fact: Any food, whether organic or conventional, could become unsafe with illness-causing foodborne bacteria at any point during the chain from the farm to the table. Consumers in their homes can take action to keep their families safe. That is why it is important to reduce your risk of foodborne illness by practicing the four steps: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.
Some excellent resources for food safety tips can be found at:
www.foodsafety.gov This site keeps track of any food recalls
www.Stilltasty.com This is as great site for seeing how long food will last. I used it just this week to figure out if an open can of chickpeas was still good. (After a week, the answer was no)
www.fightbac.org This site has loads of kid friendly activities
Enjoy your Thanksgiving!