Keeping your little ones safe is a parent’s first priority. Your kitchen is one of the most comforting rooms in the house but it can also present hazards to children. From foods that present choking hazards to unsanitary sponges, we’ll show you how to seek out those hidden dangers to keep your kids safe. By: Toby Amidor, MS, RD
Because kids have a growing and developing immune system, especially those under 6 years old, extra precautions should be taken to ensure their safety in the kitchen. Parents, pay attention to foods they eat, enforce good hygiene practices, and avoid unsafe habits like keeping those dirty kitchen towels and sponges in reach.
Foods for Kid to Avoid
A handful of foods put young children at risk for illness. These include:
- Honey: Children under 1-year-old shouldn’t consume honey. It contains a small amount of botulism spores that young immune systems can’t handle. The results could be fatal.
- Raw eggs: Even if they beg, don’t let the kids taste the cake batter. Raw eggs may contain salmonella, which can result in serious sickness.
- Undercooked meats: Think you can tell if meat is done just by looking at its color? Studies show the best way to check if your burger, steak, or chicken is cooked through is by using a thermometer. Undercooked hamburgers may carry E. Coli 0157:H7, a food bug that can be fatal.
- Unpasteurized milk and cheese: Unpasteurized products may contain the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes. This bad boy is especially risky when ingested by kids and pregnant women. Raw seafood: Sushi, raw oysters, and other uncooked seafood can carry a variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasites unsuitable for children to ingest. Make sure seafood is always cooked through.
Choking hazards are another concern in the kitchen, especially for toddlers. Top foods of concern include:
- Hot dogs
- Large chunks of fruits and veggies
- Whole grapes
- Pits from fruits like cherries, peaches, plums
- Hard candies (lollypops, jelly beans)
- Peanut butter
To prevent choking, cut food into small pieces. For example, grapes and cherry tomatoes can easily be quartered. Try taking the skin off hot dogs and then finely slicing or serve peanut butter with water or milk to help wash it down easier.
Here are a few tips to keep your child safe from dangerous germs.
- Hands: Start teaching kids how to thoroughly wash their hands, especially after the use the bathroom or play outdoors, and make sure they have soap and a stepstool available to reach the sink. Adults are guilty of poor hygiene too. And since they prepare the food, it’important to remember to wash hands thoroughly before starting to handle food and to wash hands after touching raw food. Modeling good behaviors is important— kids look up to you and watch your every move.
- The kitchen towel: It’s used to dry dishes, dry hands, wipe up spills and clean off your child’s eating area. This allows for all kinds of bacteria to spread all over your kitchen. Yuck! Wash your kitchen towels regularly and use a separate disposable paper towel or designated towel for drying hands.
- The sponge: It’s used to wash dirty dishes, wipe up spills, and clean countertops. Sponges are warm and moist—perfect for the growth of pathogens. Change sponges regularly or clean them by running through the dishwasher or placing in the microwave for 30 seconds.
- Washing meats: If you like to wash your meats and poultry in the kitchen sink—stop! The juices splatter and contaminate everything around it. USDA’s Dietary Guidelines recommend not washing meats before cooking for this reason.