Food safety at childcare facilities

Teachers and other personnel often come in contact with the food served to the children and should be familiar with safe food handling practices.

In childcare facilities, food safety is everyone’s responsibility. Teachers and other personnel often come in contact with the food served to the children and should be familiar with safe food handling practices. Child care providers and parents know how quickly illness can spread among the children in a center. Food is a common way for illness to spread. Childcare workers who have recently been ill can unknowingly contaminate the foods prepared and served to children. Contaminated food products brought into the kitchen can also be the cause of an outbreak. Everyday children eat food prepared and served in child care facilities. The food must be safely handled to reduce the children’s risk for foodborne illness. Foodborne illness is caused by eating food containing harmful microorganisms, such as bacteria or their toxins, viruses, or parasites. You cannot tell by looking, smelling or tasting food if harmful microorganisms are present, therefore, you must handle food safely from the time you receive it until the time you serve it. Child care facilities should buy foods from approved sources. Make sure fresh and packaged foods are used by the best before date.

Michigan State University Extension and eXtension recommends the following guidelines to keep food safe in childcare facilities:

  • Wash Your Hands Wash your hands properly before you eat or handle food. Hand washing includes scrubbing all parts of your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds and rinsing them under warm water. Dry your hands with a clean paper towel or air drier.
  • Refrigerate Return foods to the fridge or freezer right after using them. Perishable foods, such as meat, milk, or cheese, should not be kept at room temperature for longer than two hours. Keep cold foods at 4 degrees Celsius (40 degrees Fahrenheit) or colder.
  • Clean and sanitize Always wash and sanitize surfaces where you prepare and serve food. Many cases of food-borne illness are caused by using a cutting board, plate or utensil to prepare raw meat and then using that same cutting board, plate or utensil to prepare or serve ready-to-eat foods. Cutting boards, plates and utensils must always be washed and sanitized before foods are placed on them. Remember to clean and sanitize dishcloths and sponges regularly. Warm and damp dishcloths and sponges can be breeding grounds for bacteria. They are often used to wipe surfaces where foods are prepared or placed. This practice transfers harmful germs in the wash cloth to a counter or other food contact surface. You can quickly sterilize a moist dishcloth by microwaving it for one minute. You can make a sanitizing solution for use on surfaces, to sanitize plates and utensils by mixing the following together: mix one tablespoon of household bleach into one gallon of water; or mix one teaspoon of household bleach into four cups of water
  • Separate Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood and their juices separate from one another, and from other ready-to-eat foods. Use separate utensils and dishes for raw meat and cooked meat or other ready-to-eat foods.
  • Cook Foods Food needs to be cooked to a safe internal temperatures of 165 degrees F. Keep hot foods at 140 degrees F or hotter. Reheat leftovers to at least 165 degrees F. Food reheated in a microwave should reach 165 degrees F and be allowed to stand covered for two minutes afterwards Use a probe food thermometer to check temperatures.

The best way to protect children from possible foodborne illness in childcare facilities is to establish a plan and train all facility employees to implement the system. Keeping food safe will help to keep children safe from foodborne illnesses.

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