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Food Safety: Must Know Tips for Every Parent

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Food Safety: Must Know Tips for Every Parent

Here are simple food safety practices that you can add into your family’s daily routine. 

These good habits will serve your kids for a lifetime. Neglecting them may lead to serious health consequences, but do not panic—here is a basic list to get you started.

Hand Washing

It is true that hand washing is the simplest and most overlooked way to avoid spreading germs.  Be sure to wash your hands with your kids before you eat or cook, after touching raw foods like meat and eggs, and after sneezing, coughing or using the restroom.  Most people do not do it enough – or properly. Here’s a quick refresher:

  1. Wet hands with the hottest water you or your child can stand.
  2. Apply soap
  3. Rub hands and fingers together for at least 20 seconds. To properly cleanse hands, the process should last 20-30 seconds or the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice, say the alphabet in your head, or recite a nursery rhyme 2-3 times.
  4. Rinse thoroughly
  5. Dry hands on a designated hand towel (and wash the towel often) or use disposable paper towels.


Germs can very easily spread around your kitchen and contaminate everything! Bacteria can be transferred from one place to another from contaminated cutting boards and countertops, wreaking invisible havoc!  It’s best to think of every food as risky and act accordingly:

Store and defrost raw meats and poultry on the bottom of your fridge away from ready-to-eat foods like fruits and veggies. Keep raw meats and poultry covered to prevent juices from dripping onto other foods.

  • Don’t rinse meat before preparing – this may spread bacteria onto your sink and other surfaces.
  • Prepare raw and cooked foods separately. Have two separate cutting boards, one for raw meats and one for fresh produce. Never, use the same knife or cutting board to slice raw meat and to chop vegetables!

Temperatures for Cooking and Reheating

How do you know whether food-borne illness is lurking on your plate? Since potentially food-poisoning bacteria are invisible, you don’t!  Therefore, always cooking foods to the right temperatures helps to make food safe. Eliminate the guesswork and pick up an instant-read thermometer. They are cheap and easy to use.

Here’s how to get started: Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the food. For a proper reading, insert the bottom 2-inches of the thermometer probe (called the sensing area). For flat foods like burgers, insert on an angle.

Cooking Temperatures of Common Foods

Poultry—whole or ground (turkey, chicken, duck, goose)

165°F for 15 seconds.

Leftovers and casseroles

165°F for 15 seconds.

Fresh beef, veal or lamb
  • Medium Rare 145°F
  • Medium 160°F
  • Well Done 170°F
Ground meats (pork, beef, veal, lamb)

160°F for 15 seconds

  • Fresh (raw) 160°F
  • Pre-cooked (to reheat) 140°F
  • Cook until yolk and white are firm
  • Egg dishes 160°F

For more cooking temperatures, check out USDA’s Thermometer Fact Sheet


High-risk Foods for Children

Children under 6 do not have the disease-fighting capacity of older kids and adults.  Here’s a list of foods that are potentially high risk and some tips on making them safe.

Raw eggs: Do not taste batter containing raw eggs. Make sure all eggs served are pasteurized or thoroughly cooked before serving.

Unpasteurized (raw) milk & cheese: These foods may contain harmful bacteria and viruses and should be avoided.

Fresh juices sold in stores: Look for the label indicating it is pasteurized.

Raw Sprouts: Avoid raw sprouts whenever possible. They’ve been known to carry many harmful bacteria.

Hot Dogs: Make sure to cook thoroughly to 160°F.

Melons: The outside of the melon carries dirt and bacteria which transfers into the center when slicing. Be sure to wash well before cutting.

For more information and tips check out:


Test Your Knowledge:

Foods that carry a high-risk of foodborne illness for children include:

a. Broccoli
b. Hot Dogs
c. Bananas
Answer: b. Hot Dogs. Always cook thoroughly to 160°F.

The safest way to defrost frozen meats is to:

a. Place them in a container and leave on the counter or in the sink
b. Place them in warm water in the sink
c. Place them in the bottom of the fridge overnight
Answer: c. Place them in the bottom of the fridge overnight.

Learn how to pack your child’s lunch safely

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About the Author

Picture of Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN

Toby is a registered dietitian and a Certified Dietitian Nutritionist with over 15 years of experience in the food and nutrition industry. Toby is the founder of Toby Amidor Nutrition where she provides nutrition and food safety consulting services for various entities. She is a nutrition expert for where she writes for their Healthy Eating Blog and helps develop content and analyze the nutrition information for recipes. Toby is also the nutrition advisor for Sears’ FitStudio where she oversees the nutrition content and contributes nutrition articles to the FitStudio community. Toby has also written extensively, appeared on a variety of media oulets, counseled both in person and online, and has a great deal of teaching experience. Toby has written extensively and her publications list includes The All New Joy of Cooking (under Know Your Ingredients), where she helped compile information on over 300 foods. She was also a reviewer of the Jewish cultural food section of the web-based Nutrition Care Manual, which is compiled by The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to help guide practitioners and Cultural Food Practices also published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Other writing samples can be viewed here. She has appeared in a variety of media outlets including The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Woman’s World Magazine, Today’s Dietitian Magazine,, Good Morning America Health, Good Day New York (WNYW Fox5 NY), Self Magazine, Us Weekly Magazine, WebMD, Pregnancy & Newborn Magazine, Working Mother Magazine, The New York Daily News, Fitness Magazine, and several articles published on Scripps Howard Foundation Wire. - See more at:

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