As a parent, you probably know a lot about the important role that safe food handling plays in keeping your children healthy. But did you know that children aged five and under are at particularly high-risk of becoming ill if they eat contaminated food?
Children aged five and under are at an increased risk for complications if food poisoning occurs. This is because their immune systems are still developing and they are unable to fight off infection as effectively as adults can. Young children also produce less of the stomach acid that kills harmful bacteria, which makes it easier for them to get sick.
• Symptoms of foodborne illness can vary from mild stomach ache, vomiting, diarrhea and fever/chills to extremely severe illness requiring
hospitalization. Foodborne illness in young children can also lead to dehydration as their bodies are smaller and they can lose a high percentage of body fluid very quickly.
• Young children exposed to certain strains of the bacteria E. coli can develop a type of kidney failure and blood disorder that can be fatal. Cooking ground beef (such as hamburgers) to 71°C is essential in order to prevent this.
• Always wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and while preparing food. Be sure to wash young children’s hands as well before they sit down to eat.
• Do not give honey to a baby under one year of age. It can cause a serious type of food poisoning called infant botulism. The bacteria Clostridium botulinum commonly exists in nature, but if an infant consumes honey contaminated with it, the spores may grow and produce toxins, causing paralysis.
Healthy children over one year of age can safely eat honey because the risk subsides. Health Canada has identified children aged five and under as one of the four groups of people at greater risk for foodborne illness. The other three groups are adults aged 60 and over, pregnant women and people with a weakened immune system.
The way we store, handle and prepare food at home or in a childcare setting plays a critical role in keeping our families healthy. Parents and caregivers will find valuable information, advice and tips at www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/foodsafety.
You can also order your copy of the guide Safe Food Handling for Children
Aged Five and Under on the website, or by calling toll-free, 1-800-O-Canada.
Photo: depositphotos.com © Andrey Kuzmin