Food Safety Starts at Home

by Ruth Frechman, MA RDN CPT

Food Safety Starts at Home

Spending time in the kitchen preparing meals with your kids will provide lasting memories, as well as an opportunity to teach them practical skills. While you are teaching your kids to cook, be sure to include important ways to avoid getting a foodborne illness. Show your children that proper food handling takes place in all parts of the kitchen, from countertops and the microwave to the refrigerator and oven.

Turn these four simple foodborne illness tips into a game:

Clean – Wash hands often

Not only will proper hand washing eliminate cases of foodborne illness, but it will also reduce the spread of the common cold and flu. Wash hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after preparing food. Sing "Happy Birthday" two times while washing or find another favorite song to sing.

Separate – Keep raw meats and ready-to-eat foods separate

When teaching your kids about cross-contamination, using different color cutting boards can help remind them about keeping foods separate so that juices from raw meats can accidentally drip on fruits, salads or ready-to-eat foods. Let your kids decide which color cutting board to use for cutting raw meat, poultry and seafood and which to use for produce and ready-to-eat foods. And remember, never put cooked food back on the same plate that held raw food.

Cook – Cook to proper temperatures

Cooking food to the recommended minimum internal temperature is necessary to kill potentially harmful bacteria. The only way to ensure that a food is safely cooked is to test it with a food thermometer. Giving your kids their own thermometer will make them feel like a scientist. This goes for reheating leftovers too. Have you been reheating leftovers to 165º?

Chill – Refrigerate promptly to 40ºF or below

Refrigerate foods quickly to slow the growth of bacteria. Keep your refrigerator at 40ºF or below and your freezer at 0ºF or lower. Let your kids read the thermometer temperature to you. Safe food storage will protect them from foodborne illnesses.

Perishable foods are not safe to eat if they have been left in the danger zone of 40-140ºF for more than two hours (one hour, if it's 90ºF or hotter).

You can't rely on how food looks, smells or tastes to decide if it is safe to eat. Foods can spoil or harbor dangerous bacteria long before noticeable signs appear. The number of cases of foodborne illness each year is staggering. Following these four easy food safety tips can help protect your entire family.

For more information and tips to reduce your family's risk of foodborne illness, visit

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About the author:

Ruth Frechman MA RDN CPT

Ruth Frechman, MA RDN CPT




  • Cook healthy

    Involve your child in the cutting, mixing and preparation of all meals. Even a snack can be healthy.

  • Eat right

    Sit down together as a family to enjoy a wonderful meal and the opportunity to share the day's experiences with one another.

  • Shop smart

    To encourage a healthy lifestyle, get your children involved in selecting the food that will appear at the breakfast, lunch or dinner table.

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