Safe Food Preparation :: Nationwide Childrens Hospital

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Safe Food Preparation

Eating food that is tainted with germs such as bacteria, viruses or other organisms can cause food-borne illness. This is also known as “food poisoning.” The harmful foods may not taste or smell any different than healthy foods.

Picture 1 - Call the doctor if your child does not improve in 24 hours.
Image of calling the doctor

Signs and Symptoms

Many people think they have the “stomach flu” when it may really be food-borne illness. Usual symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, fever and cramps. These symptoms usually come on suddenly. The child may also have a bad headache.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor or nurse if any of the following occurs:

  • If your child suddenly develops a high fever over 101°F axillary (under the arm)
  • If the stomach pain becomes severe (worse than a few cramps)
  • If the diarrhea gets worse or becomes bloody (more than a streak of blood)
  • If you notice any signs of dehydration: dry mouth; decreased urine output; mouth is dry or sticky; child is listless (no energy); eyes are sunken; infant’s “soft spot” on top of the head “pulls in.”
  • Child does not improve in 24 hours.

Prevention

Preventing illness starts when you buy food at the grocery store. Besides good hand washing, be sure to follow these three main rules:

  • Keep food clean.
  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
  • Cook food completely.

Other Food Handling Tips

Picture 2 - Meat should be fully cooked and kept hot.
Image of calling the doctor
  • Eggs – Cook eggs until yolks and whites are firm. Avoid recipes that contain raw eggs and don’t sampling cookie dough containing raw eggs.
  • Fruits and vegetables – Scrub all fruits and vegetables well that are to be eaten uncooked.
  • Meats – Cook meat thoroughly. Do not partly grill or cook meat to use later. If you must cook ahead, chill food quickly in the refrigerator for later reheating. Then reheat pre-cooked meats until steaming hot. Marinate raw meat, fish or poultry in the refrigerator - not on the counter. Don’t reuse marinade from raw meat unless you boil it for several minutes to destroy bacteria. When grilling out, cut into the meat, poultry, or fish to make sure it is done. Never put cooked meat back on the same plate that held the raw meat. Use a meat thermometer when cooking inside and out to check the inner temperature of the food.
  • Coolers – If you use a cooler for foods when you’re away from home in warm weather, put the cooler inside an air-conditioned car - not in the trunk. Replace ice if it melts. Keep drinks in their own cooler, away from other foods that may carry bacteria. When preparing foods, wash surfaces and utensils with soap and hot water between uses.
  • Keep paper towels and disposable towelettes for washing hands before and after handling food and after using the bathroom.
  • If you use dishcloths or towels in the kitchen, launder them often with bleach and detergent. “Sour-smelling” sponges should be thrown away.

How to Use the Thermometer

Roasts: Insert thermometer midway without touching the bone.

Hamburgers, Steaks, Chops: Insert thermometer into thickest part of meat.

Poultry: Place thermometer in thickest part of the thigh.

Thin Foods: Insert thermometer sideways so you can take the temperature in the center of the food.

Casseroles and Combination Dishes: Place thermometer in thickest part of the food or center of the dish.

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Safe Food Preparation (PDF)

HH-IV-79 11/01, Revision 3/09 Copyright 2009, Nationwide Children’s Hospital

Nationwide Children's Hospital
700 Children's Drive Columbus, Ohio 43205 614.722.2000