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      • Published 17 Jan 2023
      • Last Modified 29 Aug 2023
    • 8 min

    Food Safety For Kids: A Guide For Parents

    Cooking with kids can be fun and educational, but it's important to follow food safety rules to avoid danger. This guide gives parents an overview.

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    Safety Begins with Food Shopping

    It is important to instil in your kids the rules of food safety right from the start, and this doesn’t have to be boring. A trip to buy food can be made into an adventure. Get your kids excited by choosing the recipe together and then making a special shopping list where kids can include their favourite foods. After the list is done, it’s a good time to let your children know about a few food safety rules that will make shopping go more smoothly:

    Check the Quality of the Food

    When shopping for fruit, don’t buy anything with broken skin, since that acts as an entryway for bacteria. Let your child play the role of the fruit inspector who checks the quality of your selections. You’ll see how this safety rule can actually become a fun game. Your new food inspector can also check the expiration dates of fresh packaged food like meat, fish and dairy products. Any food that is past the expiration date - or will be by the time you plan to eat it - gets banned. 

    Keep Raw Meat Away from Fruits and Vegetables

    When placing food in the cart, keep raw meat and fish away from foods like fruit and vegetables that you’ll eat raw. Again, this can be turned into a game, with your child in charge of designating sections of the cart for each type of food and making sure they don’t touch. 

    Shop in the Right Order

    Dry goods should be the first items to get crossed off your list because they are the least likely to get damaged. Fruits and other soft items should be fetched next so that they won’t be crushed under the dry goods. 

    After that, you can grab the refrigerated foods, ensuring they stay nice and chilled instead of lingering in a warm shopping cart. Lastly, you can get your frozen items and head straight to the checkout. Keeping frozen foods in your cart for too long may lead them to start melting, which can be a safety risk for certain foods. 

    Again, your kids can play an essential role in making your quest for groceries successful. Let your little helper be in charge of keeping track of the shopping order.

    What to Wear When Putting Food Safety First

    It is essential to show kids early on that they should wear the proper attire and accessories when preparing food. Parents can even make this into a fun activity by allowing kids to pick their own food prep clothes. This is a breakdown of the various pieces that make food prep more sanitary for everyone involved: 

    A Chef is Not a Chef Without an Apron

    Wearing an apron is synonymous with cooking, but it is not about style. An apron serves many purposes when it comes to kitchen hygiene. These purposes include:

    • Keeping Your Regular Clothing Clean: Parents know that keeping kids’ clothing clean is a never-ending battle. At least when preparing food, this battle becomes slightly easier. Aprons, especially full-body aprons, help to keep food splashes and stains off clothing. This also makes cooking a more fun experience for little ones because they will feel less self-conscious about making a mess
    • Protecting Skin from Hot Liquids: Even more important than keeping clothes clean is keeping skin protected from injury. It’s a little-known fact that most chefs don’t wear aprons to stay clean. They wear them to provide an additional barrier between their skin and hot oil. If hot oil does splash or spill on the apron, it’s easy to immediately take the apron off and away from the skin. For children, aprons can be a great way to add an extra layer of protection from any type of hot liquid, especially when kids are in proximity of foods being simmered, boiled or sautéed

    Keeping Foreign Objects Out of Food

    No one likes hair or other foreign objects in food. In food hygiene, it’s important to be vigilant about what you can’t see as well. Contaminants like germs can get into food, putting people who eat the food at risk for illness. Kids are likely to be less careful with how they handle food, so parents should make sure that they provide kids with the proper accessories to minimize contamination. Below are some examples of these accessories:

    • Hair Nets, Hair Ties or Hats: Kids with long hair should keep it tied back and out of the face. This reduces the risk of stray hairs ending up in food. It also keeps kids from using their hands to brush the hair away from their faces, a move that could cause contamination. Short hair can be a problem as well, so hair nets are also a possibility. Using a chef’s hat can keep hair tucked in and is fun for playing dress-up
    • Disposable Gloves: When working with extra messy, sticky or slimy food, parents may want to use disposable gloves to make clean-up easier. The advantage of gloves is that messy hands can simply be slipped off and thrown away. From a hygiene perspective, disposable gloves offer greater protection than simply washing hands because they provide a barrier between food and contaminants hiding underneath nails. Disposable gloves also help prevent cross-contamination between different types of food, like raw chicken that needs to be cooked and vegetables that will be eaten raw
    • Oven Mitts: Whenever you are touching hot dishes or surfaces, use oven mitts. Also, warn your children about which surfaces are hot, and supervise their use of oven mitts. It is very easy to mistake a hot dish for a cool one, and a little one who is eager to help may reach for something before you have time to react. In professional kitchens, communication about hot surfaces is key, and it should be the same in your kitchen when your children are participating

    Keeping the Kitchen Clean and Sanitary

    One of the keys to food safety is good preparation of the kitchen space. Below are some tips for getting your space ready for cooking and cleaning up afterwards.

    By keeping in mind the food safety rules outlined above, you and your kids can have a safer time in the kitchen.