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 breast milk 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, food borne bacteria can be nasty and we need to minimize any exposure.
Infants and young children are particularly vulnerable to food borne 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 (poultry, meat, raw
Make sure kitchen towels and sponges are changed and cleaned frequently (sponges can go through the dishwasher.)
Keep your refrigerator temperature at 40 degrees or colder and your freezer below 0 degrees. (One
way to make sure that the freezer has continued to have safe temps 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.) 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.
- 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.
Chicken ( white meat/ dark meat)...170/180
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.
Fact: Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet, but like other foods they may carry a risk of food borne 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.
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.
Fact: Any food, whether organic or conventional, could become unsafe with illness-causing food borne 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 food borne illness by practicing the four steps: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving!