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Parent Plus: Don’t put food safety rules on back burner this holiday season :

December 23, 2015

You’re whipping up a batch of eggnog when you realize the eggs in your refrigerator expired many weeks ago. But wait, they smell OK. They must be safe to use, right?

In the hustle and bustle of the holidays, busy parents often take shortcuts. Don’t let food safety be one of them. Children are more prone to foodborne illnesses than healthy adults, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

One in six people gets sick after eating contaminated food each year. Children who are most likely to become ill are those under age 5 and kids with chronic health problems. Young children have less acid in their stomachs to kill the germs, while those with a weak immune system have a difficult time fighting off harmful organisms in food, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Symptoms of food poisoning can include diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, fever, muscle aches, infections, seizures,

neurological problems and even death.

Just because a food smells OK does not guarantee that it is safe to eat, according to the FDA. Food can be contaminated when it comes in contact with certain bacteria, viruses, parasites and other toxins. This can occur when it is being raised or grown, during processing, or by being improperly handled, stored or prepared after purchase.

The biggest culprits of illness include undercooked meats and poultry, unpasteurized dairy products (sometimes labeled as “raw” milk and cheese), eggs, and contaminated fruit and vegetables.

Follow these recommendations when preparing foods at home to avoid illness:

  • Clean hands and surfaces thoroughly and often.
  • Keep raw meat separate from other foods during preparation.
  • Cook to the recommended temperatures and follow recommended rest times after cooking. Foodkeeper, an online database, offers tips on storage and cooking temperatures for foods, http://1.usa.gov/1YaNTAG.
  • Cover foods in the refrigerator. Contaminated food can spread to other food even at cold temperatures.
  • Refrigerate foods within two hours. There is no need to cool down hot food before refrigerating.

If you suspect your child might have food poisoning, contact your pediatrician. Report suspected food poisoning to your health department, http://1.usa.gov/1jYHc1H.

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