Yesterday, members of Puerto Rico’s 4-H club learned about the importance of safe food handling at a hands-on, entertaining food safety camp. The Food Safety and Inspection Service’s Food Safety Education Staff collaborated with the Puerto Rico Food Safety Educational Consortium to host 60 kids at the University of Puerto Rico’s Botanical Gardens in an effort to instill lifelong good habits that will reduce their risk of foodborne illness.
During the event, called “Exploring the World of Food Safety through Science,” the 4-H club toured 6 interactive learning stations that taught them how to prevent food poisoning by featuring the four food safety behaviors from the Food Safe Families campaign: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.
The Clean station was divided into two parts. One reinforced the importance of hand-washing, challenging the kids to successfully wash away glow-in-the-dark “germs.” The kids were surprised to learn that a quick rub from a hand-sanitizing wipe does not completely remove bacteria. The second station taught students the importance of cleaning kitchen utensils before and after using them to eliminate pathogens that could live in food.
At the Separate station, campers took groceries out of shopping bags and grouped them on the counter, keeping raw meat and poultry away from ready-to-eat food to prevent bacteria from spreading from one item to another.
The Cook station featured a frequently overlooked food safety step—stirring food halfway through microwaving. A camp staff member showed how an item as simple as a spoon prevents cold spots where bacteria can survive.
The Chill station had a message that’s very important for students: how to safely pack healthy lunches and snacks. After seeing a simulation of rapidly-growing bacteria in a snack that was left out for more than two hours, each of the kids was impressed that a frozen juice box could keep their lunch safe and cold.
The camp ended with food safety games that reinforced their knowledge about Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill, and a reading of “Let Me Tell You How Dad Got Sick,” a story about a family who ends up at the doctor’s office due to poor food handling practices.
The Puerto Rico Food Safety Educational Consortium was established in 1998 and is composed of various federal and state agencies and academia working to promote better food safety and handling practices among Puerto Rican residents. This multi-jurisdictional and collaborative initiative supports common institutional goals of preventing, reducing, and controlling the incidence of foodborne illnesses among the general population in Puerto Rico.