True or false?
· Backpacks should be put on the floor, not on the counter.
· Washing your hands with warm water and soap washes bacteria down the drain.
· You need to wash fruits and vegetables under cold running water before eating.
· Cooked foods should not be put on the same plate that held raw meat or poultry (unless the plate has been thoroughly washed).
· Leftovers should not be on a plate on the counter for more than two hours.
· Always wash your hands after touching raw meat or poultry.
· Eating homemade cookie dough is not safe because it might contain raw eggs.
All are true statements. It's important to help children learn the science behind these kitchen warnings. For example, learning how bacteria grow and cause foodborne illness can help kids understand Why food needs to be put back in the refrigerator as soon as possible.
In order to safely use a microwave oven, children must be able to read and understand directions. Important tips for using a microwave include:
· Do not use plastic containers such as margarine tubs or other one-time-use containers in the microwave. They can warp or melt, possibly causing harmful chemicals to get in the food.
· Do not use metal or aluminum foil containers in the microwave. They can get too hot and burn. Use only glass and other containers that are labeled for microwave use.
· A dish of food for microwaving should be covered loosely with a lid or plastic wrap to let steam escape. The moist heat will help destroy harmful bacteria.
· Stir or rotate food midway through cooking to promote even cooking. If you don't, you'll have cold spots where harmful bacteria can survive.
· Reheat hot dogs until they are hot and steaming. Pierce hot dogs with a fork before putting them into the microwave oven to keep them from exploding.
· To prevent burns, carefully remove food from the microwave oven. Use potholders and uncover foods away from your face so steam can escape.
· Throw away leftovers (and any perishable food) that stays out longer than two hours - or one hour if it's more than 90 degrees. When in doubt, throw it out.
· Teach children to use a food thermometer to check for safety and doneness when they are cooking in the microwave or on the stove and in the oven.
· Kid-friendly messages such as "Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill" offered by the FightBac Campaign can be posted on the refrigerator. These and other education materials can be found on the Web at www.fsis.usda.gov under the Partnership for Food Safety Education.
Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.