Young children are at higher risk of getting ill from not handling food properly because their immune system is not as developed as an adult’s. Symptoms of foodborne illness may occur in minutes or weeks after eating contaminated food. Flu-like symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or fever may be an indication of foodborne illness.
To help them avoid foodborne illness here’s what they can do when preparing food after school:
- Put books, bookbags and sports equipment on the floor. Don’t put on eating counters or the kitchen table because these items can transfer germs to food.
- Clean out lunch boxes and throw out leftovers from lunch, especially perishable sandwiches and foods that require refrigeration such as yogurt tubes or cheese sticks.
- Wash hands before making or eating a snack. Hands carry germs. Not washing hands is one of the primary causes of foodborne illness.
- Use clean utensils and dishes when preparing and eating the food.
- Wash fruits and vegetables with running water before eating them.
- Don’t eat bread, cheese, soft fruits or vegetables with bruises or spots of mold.
- Don’t eat unbaked cookie dough. The raw eggs in the dough may have Salmonella bacteria which can make you sick.
- Don’t leave cold foods, like milk, lunch meat, hardcooked eggs or yogurt, out on the counter at room temperature. Put them in the refrigerator immediately after making the snack.
- Don't eat any perishable food left out of the refrigerator, such as pizza — even if it’s not topped with meat. Food shouldn’t be left in the "Danger Zone" of 40 to 140° F for more than 2 hours (1 hour if the temperature is 90° F or higher).
Adapted from: Food Safety After School, FSIS, accessed 10/6/2011 at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/fact_sheets/Food_Safety_After_School/index.asp
For more information, see the Food Safety feature articles on MissouriFamilies.org
Contributor: Ellen Schuster, M.S., R.D., Associate State Specialist, University of Missouri Extension, firstname.lastname@example.org, 573-882-1933