Anyone can get food poisoning, but babies and toddlers are at especially high risk and once they become infected, young children can have a hard time getting well. Serious complications may develop, resulting in hospitalizations, lifelong health problems and even death.
The Partnership for Food Safety Education, at (www.fightbac.org/childcare), has tips for parents, grandparents and baby sitters on ways to reduce the risk of food poisoning in households with small children.
"Clean hands save lives," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but what should you choose for getting kids' hands clean: hand washing or hand sanitizers?
When done properly, washing hands with warm water and soap is more effective than sanitizers in reducing the number of bacteria and viruses on hands.
Take time to help young children wash hands properly: Wet the child's hands under clean, running water. Apply soap. The child should rub his or her hands together; you should help if the child is very young. Don't forget to lather the wrists, up the arms, and in between fingers. Lathering should last 20 seconds - about the time it takes to sing the "ABC" song. Rinse hands and then dry thoroughly with a single use paper towel. Use the towel to turn off the faucets.
Clean surfaces are also important in protecting young children from food poisoning. Dangerous germs - like hepatitis A virus and rotavirus - can live on surfaces for several weeks. If someone touches those surfaces, germs can get on the person's hands and then be transferred into the mouth, to other people, or to food. That's why it's so important to clean and sanitize frequently touched surfaces.
Cleaning and sanitizing aren't the same. Cleaning - which is removing dirt and debris - comes before sanitizing. A sanitizing solution is then used to kill germs. There is a "recipe" for a safe and effective sanitizing solution: Combine one tablespoon liquid chlorine bleach with one gallon of water in a clean bucket.
Clean the surface with hot water and soap, thoroughly rinse it, apply sanitizing solution and allow to air dry. Use this method to clean and sanitize high chair trays, sinks, kitchen counters, and large plastic or rubber toys. Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counter tops with hot water and soap after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next food. Wash high chair trays with hot water and soap after every use and dry thoroughly with a single use paper towel. Cutting boards, dishes, utensils and small plastic toys can also be run through a dishwasher at 170 degrees to disinfect them.
More information on food safety is available at your county extension office or on the Web at (www.ag.ndsu.nodak.edu).
Gail Slinde works for the NDSU Extension service