Hygiene and safety around food preparation is important to everyone’s health and wellbeing. However, it’s even more important for babies, infants and toddlers. At this age they are fragile and have low resilience against bacteria, toxins and potential food poisoning. The fall-out from poor standards around food preparation could therefore make little ones very ill or, in the worst cases, even prove fatal. With that in mind, today’s article outlines ways that parents/guardians of children can take appropriate precautions when preparing and serving food to little ones.
Hygiene in the Kitchen
It’s important that any food preparation is done in a clean and hygienic environment. This helps to prevent the spread of germs and cross-contamination of foods.
- Always clear and clean your surfaces.
- Ensure pets to not walk on surfaces where food may be prepared or eaten.
- Make sure, if using a cleaning product like a spray, that it does not come into contact with any of the foods or plate surfaces that food will go onto.
- Make sure that all kitchen utensils are clean and have been washed in warm soapy water or in the dishwasher.
- Remember to keep sinks clean and hygienic too.
- Keep fridge and cupboard door handles, cooker knobs and hobs clean and hygienic.
- Ensure that tea towels and hand towels are fresh and regularly washed to prevent the further spread of germs.
Personal Hygiene Around Food
There are also things that you can do on a personal level to keep hygiene and food safety levels high for your family:
- Tie long hair back to avoid it coming into contact with food.
- Always wash hands before preparing food, and rinse them well.
- If you feel unwell, for example with a tummy bug, try and ask a family member or friend to help with food preparation so you avoid spreading germs to your child.
- Ensure your fridge is set to the correct temperature to keep food cold and the door kept closed whenever possible.
- Ensure the fridge is kept clean and always clear up spillages or leaks there right away.
- Try to avoid smoking while preparing food. Second-hand smoke and smoke residue is not at all good for children.
Precautions Around Food Preparation
Preparation of the food itself is, of course, an important consideration when it comes to hygiene and avoiding germs getting into children’s meals.
- Always wash your hands before preparing or handling food.
- Wash vegetables, salad, fruit etc. and even peel some types of vegetable, particularly root vegetables that have been grown in earth.
- Avoid giving eggs to children younger than 6 months of age. If giving chickens’ eggs to children aged 6 months or older, ensure they are stamped with the Red Lion or ‘British Lion Quality’ mark if serving raw or only lightly cooked. All other eggs must be thoroughly cooked i.e. so that the yolk and egg whites become firm. That includes eggs from ducks, geese and quails.
- Make sure all foods are thoroughly cooked.
- Pay particular care to the cooking of fish, seafood and shellfish, ensuring that it’s cooked thoroughly.
- Allow the cooked food to cool for a short time, testing that it’s become lukewarm, before feeding it to your child. You can place the hot food in an airtight container and run it under cold water, stirring periodically, to cool it faster.
Cooling & Storing Food
A safe approach to food cooling and storage is also incredibly important for the wellbeing of you, your child and family.
- Always store raw meat and fish away from other foods. Store each separately in covered containers on the bottom shelf of the fridge. This prevents drips falling onto other foods.
- When saving cooked food to store in the fridge or freezer for later use, try to cool it as quickly as possible — ideally within one or two hours (N.B. for rice, see below) and put it straight into the fridge or freezer once cold.
- Rice is a special case due to the possible build-up of toxins. It must be cooled within one hour and eaten within 24 hours. Never reheat rice more than once. Learn more about the dangers of reheating rice here.
- If freezing foods, label and date them, so they can be used in an appropriate time frame.
Reheating food also needs to be done in the right way in order to keep families safe and well:.
- Do not reheat rice or cooked food more than once. As we said above, particular care needs to be taken with rice.
- Always defrost frozen food thoroughly before cooking — either in the fridge overnight or by using defrost mode in a microwave.
- When reheating food, always ensure it is the correct temperature for your child to eat otherwise it could burn them if too hot or not be safe to eat if not cooked sufficiently.
- If reheating meals in the microwave, be very careful as it can retain the heat more and continue cooking even once taken out of the microwave.
Things Your Child Can Do
You should also inform and teach your child about hygiene and food safety. Leading by example and explaining why you’re going what you’re doing is a good approach.
- Remind your child to wash their hands before they eat and that it’s a matter of hygiene.
- Try to ensure your child is seated and calm for eating. A child who is running around or playing is at greater risk of choking when eating.
- It goes almost without saying that you should avoid allowing children to eat when they are seated on the potty or toilet.
Food Safety, Hygiene & Quality Assurance At Leaps & Bounds Nursery
We do, of course, follow all best practices at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery. We are rated with the full 5 stars in terms of food hygiene and preparation and also won the Gold Quality Award, Birmingham City Council’s “Healthy Setting Award” and have completed various quality assurance schemes.
Nursery Places in Edgbaston, Birmingham
Leaps & Bounds: Ofsted-rated as a ‘Good’ Nursery & Pre-school in Edgbaston, Birmingham
If you are looking for high quality weekday childcare for your baby or child under five, ensure you choose a nursery that’s highly rated by Ofsted — Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery and pre-school for example. Leaps & Bounds is officially a good nursery and pre-school, located in Edgbaston, Birmingham. It is also very near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood and Smethwick, so will be convenient for childcare services if you live or work in any of those locations. We accept children funded through the Government schemes like 15 hours per week of free childcare for 2-year-olds, 15-30 hours per week of free childcare for 3 & 4-year-olds, childcare grants for students and tax-free childcare too (all subject to eligibility, of course). Interested?
Please choose a button to get started on a guided visit, nursery application or simply to find out more:
A Final Word
While this guide is primarily about hygiene around food, it would be remiss of us not to include the following additional reminders:
- Only feed your child age-appropriate foods. This is particularly important when they are babies;
- Avoid any known allergens (if your child is allergic) and any foods they are intolerant to;
- Avoid foods that are known to be potentially harmful. For example, foods that are too high in salt, sugar and saturated fats, contain arsenic in the case of rice drinks, or contain mercury in the case of some fish/seafood. Choking hazards like whole nuts and olives are other examples to avoid. See our A-Z of foods to avoid giving your infant for more details.
- Always check ingredients and age guidelines on food packaging, including formula milks.
- Always ensure you are giving your baby or child a healthy, balanced, age-appropriate diet and one that uses portion sizes that are appropriate to their age and developmental stage.
- Be vigilant when cooking to ensure your child is not exposed to dangers like hot ovens, hot hobs, boiling kettles, trailing electrical leads and so on.