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Information Update - Food Safety For Children Ages Five And Under

OTTAWA, Feb. 19, 2013 /CNW/ - Health Canada is reminding Canadians of the importance of food safety for children ages five and under.

Children ages five and under are at an increased risk for complications from food poisoning (foodborne illness). This is because their immune systems are still developing and they are unable to fight off infection as well as adults can. Young children also produce less of the stomach acid that kills harmful bacteria, which makes it easier for them to get sick.

It is estimated that there are approximately 11 million cases of foodborne illnesses in Canada every year. Many of these cases could be prevented by following proper food handling and preparation techniques.

While it's always important for Canadians to follow proper food safety steps, it's especially important for parents and caregivers to pay close attention to food safety for young children. To protect them from getting sick, follow these key steps to food safety: Cook; Clean; Chill and Separate.

Cook - To prevent illness, it is extremely important to cook meat and poultry to a safe internal temperature. Remember, visual cues like colour are not a guarantee that food is safe. Don't guess! Use a digital food thermometer to check when meat and poultry are safe to eat.

Clean - Properly clean anything that comes in contact with the food (your hands, kitchen surfaces and utensils, reusable grocery bags, etc.) and always have your children wash their hands before eating. This will help eliminate bacteria and reduce your family's risk of getting sick. In addition, fruits and vegetables should be washed under clean running water.

Chill - It is extremely important to keep cold food cold and hot food hot so that your food never reaches the temperature "danger zone," which is between 4 oC and 60 oC (40 oF and 140 oF). Defrosting raw meat, poultry and fish should be done in the refrigerator, in the microwave, or immersed in cold water (replaced every 30 minutes), never at room temperature.

Separate - It is important to always separate your raw foods, such as meat and eggs, from ready-to-eat foods, such as cooked meat and vegetables, to avoid cross-contamination.

  • Parents and caregivers should also pay close attention to what they are feeding young children. Some foods are at a higher risk for foodborne bacteria than others.
    • Do not give honey to a baby under one year old - it can cause a serious type of food poisoning called infant botulism. Healthy children over one year of age can safely eat honey because they have a very low risk of developing infant botulism.
    • Make sure to cook hot dogs until they are steaming hot before young children eat them.
    • Do not serve raw alfalfa or bean sprouts to young children.
    • Never give your child foods containing raw eggs (e.g. cookie dough, cake batter).
    • Avoid unpasteurized milk, juice and cider.
    • Don't eat raw or undercooked meat, poultry, fish or seafood.

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