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kids trick or treating at halloween

Trick-or-treat food safety tips for Halloween

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Halloween celebrations can be a trick or a treat when it comes to food safety. While Halloween offers plenty of make-believe fun, it also brings real food safety risks.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, the most common foodborne illness is Salmonella infections. Approximately 50 percent of the 42,000 annual Salmonella infections occur in infants and school-age children, the prime trick-or-treaters.

“Children under the age of 5 are at an increased risk for foodborne illness because their immune systems are still developing,” said Ravi Jadeja, food safety specialist for Oklahoma State University’s Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center. “Parents are responsible for ensuring their kids are aware of the various strategies to manage food allergies and other safety concerns.”

These tips and tricks will help carve out food-safe festivities for party throwers and goers.

  • Snacking: Children should not snack on treats from their goody bags while they are out trick-or-treating. Give them a light meal or snack before they head out – do not send them out on an empty stomach. Urge them to wait until they get home and let you inspect their loot before they eat any of it.
  • Safe treats: Tell children not to accept – and especially not to eat – anything that is not commercially wrapped. Inspect commercially wrapped treats for signs of tampering, such as an unusual appearance or discoloration, tiny pinholes or tears in wrappers. Throw away anything that looks suspicious.
  • Food allergies: If your child has a food allergy, check the label to ensure the allergen is not present. Do not allow the child to eat any home-baked goods he or she may have received.
  • Choking hazards: If you have very young children, be sure to remove any choking hazards such as gum, peanuts, hard candies or small toys.

Bobbing for apples is an all-time favorite Halloween game. Here are a couple of ways to say “boo” to bacteria that can cause foodborne illness.

  • Reduce the number of bacteria that might be present on apples and other raw fruits and vegetables by thoroughly rinsing them under cool running water. As an added precaution, use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.
  • Try this new spin on apple bobbing from Cut out lots of apples from red construction paper. On each apple, write activities for kids, such as “do five jumping jacks.” Place a paper clip on each apple and put them in a large basket. Tie a magnet to a string. Let the children take turns “bobbing” with their magnet and doing the activity written on their apple. Give children a fresh apple for participating.

If you decide to throw a Halloween party at home, do not forget these tips:

  • Beware of spooky cider. Unpasteurized juice or cider can contain harmful bacteria such as Salmonella. To stay safe, always serve pasteurized products at your parties.
  • No matter how tempting, don't taste raw cookie dough or cake batter that contains uncooked eggs.
  • Scare bacteria away by keeping all perishable foods chilled until serving time. These include finger sandwiches, cheese platters, fruit or tossed salads, cold pasta dishes with meat, poultry or seafood, and cream pies or cakes with whipped-cream and cream cheese frostings.
  • Bacteria will creep up on you if you let foods sit out too long. Do not leave perishable goodies out of the fridge for more than two hours (one hour in temperatures above 90 degrees).

FAPC, a part of OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, helps to discover, develop, and deliver technical and business information that stimulates and supports the growth of value-added food and agricultural products and processing in Oklahoma.

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