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Food Safety for the Entire Family

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Clean Up
Squeezing out a sponge doesn't rid it of germs, it just transfers many of them to your hands. Using dirty sponges or cloths also spreads microorganisms throughout the kitchen. If you prefer sponges, change them frequently and place them daily in the dishwasher to kill the bacteria they harbor. Microwaving a sponge for thirty seconds is also lethal for germs. Use a fresh paper towel to sop up each spill of meat, poultry, and seafood juice on countertops. Warm and cold rinses don't kill germs, which is why you should launder all kitchen towels and other cloths (as well as those used to clean the bathroom) in the hot cycle of your washing machine. For certain germ death, add bleach to the wash.

Don't Eat That! Foods Youngsters and Pregnant Women Should Avoid
Raw or undercooked animal foods, including eggs. They are the worst offenders as far as foodborne illness goes as they harbor a host of germs. Don't let your kids lick the batter bowl. The raw eggs used to make cakes, cookies, and brownies are risky for them and for you. Commercially prepared cookie dough is not hazardous, however. Neither are frozen desserts flavored with cookie dough or commercial products such as eggnog: they are produced with pasteurized eggs.

Soft cheeses. The likes of Brie, Camembert, feta, and blue-veined varieties of cheese may contain Listeria monocytogenes.

Unpasteurized juice and milk. Pasteurization kills nearly all the germs in juice and milk. It may seem more natural to serve unpasteurized juices or raw milk, but it is especially dangerous to feed them to a child or drink them when you're expecting. Unpasteurized juices must carry a warning label that states the dangers they pose, particularly to children, so read the package before purchasing or pouring.

Honey. Children under one year of age must avoid honey because of the threat of botulism.

Alfalfa sprouts. Animal foods are the usual vehicle for strains of the salmonella bacteria, but produce can be culpable, too. Alfalfa sprouts have caused outbreaks of salmonella poisoning affecting an estimated twenty thousand North Americans. Experts say that conditions are ripe for salmonella contamination in alfalfa sprouts given the circumstances of how the seeds are handled and then sprouted. And since consumers rarely cook or wash alfalfa sprouts, the chances of illness from eating them runs high. That's why alfalfa sprouts are frowned upon for people at the greatest risk for foodborne illness, including children and pregnant women.

Problems with Plastics
Plastic is such a part of our lifestyle that you probably don't give it too much thought. You buy plastic-wrapped foods, store food in plastic, and even use it in the microwave. Plastics have pitfalls, however.

Plasticizers, used to make plastics pliable, are problematic because they can leach from wraps and bags into foods, including high-fat fare such as processed meats. The problem is that plastic degrades, causing chemicals to get into your food. Plastic's demise is accelerated by light and by heat; fattier and acidic foods absorb more plasticizers than other fare.

Some experts say that the plasticizer di-(2-ethylhexyle) adipate (DEHA), used in certain clingy plastic wraps designed for commercial use, is an endocrine disrupter. Endocrine disrupters are chemicals that can interfere with your child's development. Others, including the PDA and the EPA, say that studies have not confirmed that DEHA is an endocrine disrupter. While there's little scientific evidence to fear plastic, there's no reason why you can't handle it more safely. Here's how to avoid problems.

  • Rewrap high-fat foods, including cold cuts, at home. Before eating, slice off a thin sliver where the commercial wrap came into contact with the food.
  • Microwave foods in glass such as Corningware, or stick with brand names for microwavable plastics, including Tupperware and Rubbermaid.
  • If you must use plastic wrap, purchase brands that specify on the label that they are made from polyethylene (such as Glad Wrap), because they don't contain DEHA. Leave a gap between food and any type of plastic wrap whenever possible.
  • Store foods in glass, never in styrofoam.
  • Never microwave food in leftover plastic containers such as cottage cheese or margarine tubs, and throw out old plastic containers that show signs of wear.
  • Cover food with a paper towel instead of with plastic wrap when heating in the microwave.
Consumers Union tested baby bottles made with polycarbonate, a clear, hard plastic material. When they filled them with infant formula and heated up the bottles, they found that bisphenol-A, a potential endocrine disrupter, leached into the formula. You could get around potential problems with plastic by using glass bottles. Another way to protect your baby: avoid clear, shiny plastic baby bottles and serve infant formula or breast milk in less shiny, opaque bottles, which are often colored.

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Copyright © 2002 by Elizabeth M. Ward. Excerpted from Healthy Foods, Healthy Kids with permission of its publisher, Adams Media Corporation.

To order this book visit Amazon.com.


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