Food Safety in the Child Care Setting

by Carla Snuggs

Food safety in the child care setting is vital.  E. coli, Salmonella, Hepatitis A, Campylobacter, Shigella, Norovirus, and Listeria are common pathogens which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and even death. By keeping hands and cooking surfaces cleaning, heating and cooling foods appropriately, and avoiding pesticides, childcare businesses can help keep kids safe from foodborne illness.

Hand Washing
Hand washing is imperative in reducing the spread of bacteria. Children and adults must wash their hands with soap and water before handling food, after using the toilet, after playing outside, and after touching animals, as well as after meals and snacks. In addition adults must wash their hands after wiping the face of a child, after diapering, assisting children with the toilet, and before and after treating a wound.

Proper Hand-washing Procedures

  • Use soap while rubbing hands vigorously under running water for at least 30 seconds.  Wash all surfaces, including back of hands, wrists, between fingers and under your fingernails
  • Rinse hands well under running water
  • Dry hands with a clean paper towels

Avoid Cross-Contamination
There may be harmful bacteria in some raw foods such as raw meat, poultry, eggs, etc. In order to prevent these bacteria from spreading to other foods:

  • Store raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs separately from others in the refrigerator
  • Use a separate cutting board for raw meats, poultry, seafood and eggs, and a different cutting board for cutting vegetables.  Do not put cooked items on a dish once used for raw meats unless it has been washed.
  • Wash your hands, utensils, cutting boards, etc. after handling raw meats.
  • Clean and sanitize counters, tables, cutting boards, and utensils after using them.

Keep Hot Foods Hot
Cook foods thoroughly and completely.  The United States Department of Agriculture provides a cooking temperature chart. Use a meat thermometer. When reheat foods, heat them until they are very hot, around 165 degrees. Ground meat always should be cooked until well-done. Egg yolks and egg whites should be cooked until firm. Poultry should be cooked until juices run clear.

Keep cold foods cold
Your refrigerator should be kept at 38 degrees or below and your freezer should be kept at 0 degrees or below. Perishables, prepared food, and leftovers must be refrigerated or refrozen within two hours. Some foods MUST be refrigerated such as milk, cheese, yogurts, meat and poultry sandwiches and salad, opened cans of fruit, opened cans of pudding, and peeled or cut fruits and vegetables. Some foods are fine at room temperature such as cookies, crackers, dried fruit, unopened cans of fruit, pudding and juice boxes, and fruit filled pastries.

Pesticides
Pesticides are often found on the produce we buy. Buy organic produce whenever possible.  Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly with a produce wash before you eat them to remove chemical pesticides. Also, scrub the skins of waxy produce like cucumbers, tomatoes, apples, and eggplant.  Fruits with the highest levels of pesticide residue are apples, cherries, grapes, peaches, pears, nectarines, raspberries and strawberries. Produce with the highest levels of pesticide residue are bell peppers, celery, potatoes, and spinach

Childcare centers will never be free from bacteria, but by focusing on preventative measures, childcare providers have a better chance at reducing the spread of foodborne illness.

About the Author

Carla Snuggs is a freelance writer from Southern California. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Family and Consumer Science with an emphasis in child development and also holds a Master of Library and Information Science degree.

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