How safe is your kitchen?
When your children were young, you crawled on hands and knees to view your kitchen at toddler level. You plugged outlets, blocked the basement stairs, tightened cabinet knobs and always kept hot pot handles turned in toward the back of the stove, beyond the reach of probing fingers. Now that your kids are older, you may think your kitchen’s no longer a threat. Think again.
Here, a list of potential hazards and ways to keep your family safe:
Menacing microbes There’s clean and then there’s microscopically clean. The kitchen is a haven for disease-causing bacteria, but you can ward off illnesses with several germ-fighting techniques. Pop wet sponges in the microwave for two minutes each day to eliminate bacteria, and replace the sponges regularly. Use disinfectant sprays or wipes on surfaces you touch regularly, from faucets to fridge handles to the phone — not to mention the table and chairs. Dedicate a different cutting board to each type of food you prep — and mark them to track which is for veggies, which for raw meat, and so on — and be sure to disinfect after each use. And reach for paper towels to dry your hands, particularly during cold and flu months. Sharing cloth hand towels virtually guarantees passing germs from one person to the next, says Neil Schacter, M.D., author of The Good Doctor’s Guide to Colds and Flu.
Careless cords Kitchen gadgets and small appliances are a cook’s best friend, but every time you buy a new tool, you should ask yourself: Am I using and storing it safely? Safety expert John Drengenberg of Underwriters Laboratories (UL) cautions consumers to be watchful, particularly of the cords on small appliances — electric kettles, mixers, deep fryers, etc. — which can get caught on other objects or yanked by younger children. Keep them well out of reach and away from other appliances. Teach older kids about proper handling of appliances … and their potential dangers. Periodically check the cords to make sure the wires are not damaged, cracked or loose. If they are, stop using them immediately and take them to a professional repair shop, hire an electrician or replace with a new item, advises the National Fire Protection Association.
Plastics predicament The potential health risk of plastic food-storage containers has been the subject of much debate lately, but the undisputed fact is that containers leach a small amount of plastics into food. Certain foods — particularly fatty, salty or acidic ones — increase the amount that’s transferred. So does heating. Just to be safe, check the condition of your containers and replace them when they are worn out or cracked. Whenever possible, use ceramic or glass.
Wave worries Microwave ovens trump stoves when it comes to fast food prep but take care not to overheat. Just like you used to test the temperature of your baby’s bottle, you now need to test the temperature of microwaved food before giving it to your child. Just stick your (clean!) finger into the middle and stir before serving. Teach older kids to test it themselves and also tell them about basic microwave safety rules: Never use aluminum foil and metal pans, and only use glass, ceramics and plastics specifically labeled microwave-safe. The Harvard Medical School offers a few more tips:
Packaged-food containers — like margarine and yogurt tubs — should not be used in microwaves. Neither should most takeout containers and water bottles. Put food in ceramic or glass before microwaving.
Don’t microwave plastic storage bags or plastic grocery bags.
Vent containers before putting them in the microwave.
Plastic wrap can melt in the microwave, so don’t put it directly on the food. As an alternative, use wax paper, kitchen parchment paper or white paper towels to cover the food.
By Patricia Berry for Your Family Today
Image: Flickr Creativecommons Fazimoto