Milk left out on the counter. Raw eggs in salad dressing. Undercooked chicken thighs. And of course, the picnic lunch with macaroni salad but no ice pack.
All of these are food safety disasters.
My DH and I are pretty obsessive about environmental health related things because we have a family member with low immunity to infections. We are big into washing hands and sterilizing cutting boards. But I’ve learned that I have to teach a lot of our au pairs how to handle food safely, because many of them just don’t know. Here are some strategies to try.
Teaching your Au Pair Food Safety
1. Make it part of the food preparation routine that you teach your au pair. When your au pair is not such a big cook when she arrives, it’s easy-ish to make food safety part of the routines that you teach her/him for making chicken tenders, baby bottles, and lunches.
2. Make food safety something s/he needs to teach your kids. You can also present safe food handling routines as things that s/he needs to teach to your kids (and learn along with them). For example, I used to play a game about evaluating the fragrance of hand soap in various rest rooms (Ooh, the soap here at Dunkin Donuts smells so good! Here, try some!).
3. Print out some Food Safety Infographics and put them on your fridge. Refer to them when you are talking about meal prep, meal planning, etc.
4. Talk about food safety as part of ‘cultural differences’. When I first went to Europe I couldn’t believe that they sold milk in boxes, displayed on refrigerated shelves. Ew! And then I learned about aseptic packaging, a cultural difference (at the time). Similarly, if you’re used to shopping every day or two, and not once a week, you probably have no idea how long sliced turkey from the deli actually lasts.
5. Learn about & share regional differences in how ‘basic’ foods are prepared for sale, and how that influences how they can be used. For example, did you know that you can’t make yogurt out of ultra pasteurized milk? If an au pair unknowingly tried to make yogurt ‘just like at home’ from UP milk, it would never work. It would go bad before it turned into Chobani.
6. Remember to talk with your au pair about how children have different digestive systems and immunity profiles. Even if you think raw eggs in Caesar salad dressing is fine for an adult, it is *not* fine for a child. Food safety isn’t a bunch of obsessive routines, it’s about real health and safety.
7. Use an Online Food Safety Class to guide your Au Pair. Here’s a nice one from the Utah Education Department!
8. Set up a competition between you vs. the Kids& The AuPair to see who can score the highest on the Food Safety Quiz of the Minnesota Dept. of Health (download it here). Whoever wins gets a week’s supply of Ben & Jerry’s.
Make sure that you have appropriate food safety tools, like a decent meat thermometer or a spray on bleach cleaner for cutting boards (and rubber gloves).
Food Safety is something that we’ve never talked about on this blog before, so thank you to OpinionatedHM for raising the issue. Her personal story and question is tomorrow’s post. Be sure to check it out.