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After school food safety tips for kids snacking at home alone

As children go back to school to feed their hungry minds, parents will be turning their attention to feeding those hungry bodies with healthy and nutritious snacks at home. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) recently issued tips to keep kids safe from food poisoning as they prepare their favorite treats, sometimes unsupervised by mom or dad. Consumers of all ages need to be aware that bacteria in food can make them sick, but there are ways to reduce their risk of food poisoning. Back to school time is an excellent opportunity for parents and kids alike to review the importance of food safety in the kitchen.

Keep it clean:

  Put your books, book bags and sporting equipment on a chair or the floor, not on kitchen counters or tables or other food preparation and eating surfaces where germs from your “stuff” could be transferred to the food you eat.

• Wash your hands. Hands carry lots of germs, and not washing hands is a top cause of foodborne                      

     illness. This is especially important after greeting the family pet, giving it a treat, or even touching its toys or housing.

• Always use clean spoons, forks and plates.

• Wash fruits and vegetables with running tap water before you eat them, even if you plan to peel                      them

• Do not leave cold items, like milk, lunchmeat, hard cooked eggs or yogurt, out on the counter at room temperature. Put these foods back in the refrigerator as soon as you have fixed your snack.

Avoid these foods:

• Any perishable food left out overnight, such as pizza, even if it is not topped with meat. Food that has to be cooked or refrigerated should never be left out for more than two hours.

• Lunchbox leftovers, like perishable sandwiches or other foods that need refrigeration which were not eaten at school. Throw out these, and their plastic or foil wrapping, instead of saving them for later.

• Unbaked cookie dough, because it may contain raw eggs that can have Salmonella bacteria.

• Bread, cheese or soft fruits or vegetables that look bad or have even small spots of mold.

Microwave food carefully:

• Don’t use the microwave if you have to reach over your head to open it. It’s easy to spill hot food or liquid as you take it out, which can burn your skin.

• Use only microwave-safe plates, bowls, and utensils. Some containers can melt or warp, and they may leak harmful chemicals into your food. Ask your parents to keep microwave-safe dishes in a certain cabinet you can reach.

• Cover food with a lid, plastic wrap, or wax paper, turning up one corner to let steam escape. Also, rotate or stir food halfway through cooking. This helps to heat food evenly and removes cold spots, which better destroys any bacteria that could be present.

• Read package instructions carefully, or ask your parents what settings to use for your favorite snacks. If a microwaveable meal says to let the food “stand” after the timer goes off, don’t skip this step. The food is still cooking even though the microwave has stopped.

• Never pop any food right from the microwave into your mouth.  Allow the food to cool for several minutes before eating.

• Microwave hot dogs, luncheon meats. Fully cooked ham and leftovers until they are steaming hot.   This indicates that they at a temperature high enough to destroy bacteria.  Just let the food cool for a few minutes so you don’t burn your mouth.

• Here are some tips for specific microwaveable snacks:

• Jelly doughnuts, fruits pastries, and pocket-type sandwiches. Break these open before eating. The filling can get very hot and burn your mouth so open them to let them cool.

• Popcorn.  Let the bag sit for several minutes before opening.  Steam from the bag can burn your face, eyes, arms, and hands.

Parents will have less to worry about if their children follow these food safety tips when they are eating snacks along at home after school.  Source: US Department of Agriculture