Working with food
Looking at food through archaeological remains and practical demonstrations of cookery can be an excellent way of bringing the past to life: there’s nothing like a fantastic Egyptian/Medieval/Viking banquet! Working with food and children can be a worry, but if you approach it carefully there’s no reason why you shouldn’t use food in your YAC sessions.
If you are making food for consumption rather than just demonstration then make sure you are following the guidance below. In many cases it’s just a matter of using common sense. As with any other activity, you should prepare a risk assessment in advance. Rather than seeing food safety as prohibitive, use it to your advantage as part of the activity. For example, you could discuss with your YAC members:
- Where did food come from in the past? Would it be fresh?
- How would it have been stored? Would this have worked?
- What might cleanliness have been like?
- What would have happened if you had eaten bad food?
Many archaeological remains can be linked to these points, such as ice houses, fish ponds at monasteries, granaries, storage pots and water supplies.
What to cook and where
When risk assessing your event you must think carefully about what you want to cook and the facilities available to you. Food like cakes, bread and biscuits carry very low risk of food poisoning and it’s often best to stick to these.
If you are working in a proper kitchen it may be possible for your members to cook and consume food using authentic recipes. You must, however, make sure that hygiene rules are followed. As a precaution, get special permission from parents/carers for the members to take part in the session and as part of your risk assessment take account of any food allergies mentioned on membership forms.
Nut allergies can be very sensitive and very severe. In some cases just being in the same room as nuts can start an allergic reaction. If you are doing cooking with a child with a nut allergy, be aware that nuts can often be in unexpected places. For example, vegetable oil often contains peanut oil; so if you are cooking with oil use pure sunflower oil instead.
Basic food hygiene
When preparing food with your Branch, you must follow the basic hygiene guidance below to make sure your event runs safely. This guidance is taken from the Food Safety Act 1990.
- Keep a record of everything you are doing with food during an event, e.g. when and where you bought the food. This information will be invaluable if there is an alleged case of food poisoning and could help to ascertain whether YAC was the source. You will be asked for this information if a complaint is made to the Environmental Health Department.
- Thoroughly wash your hands before and after any activities.
- Wear a clean apron and ensure hair is tied back. Remove all jewellery and don’t wear nail varnish.
- Clean and disinfect all worktops and equipment.
- Do not allow animals into the kitchen while preparing food.
- Don’t make food too far in advance.
- Don’t leave food standing around for long periods in warm places.
- Buy all fresh ingredients on the day they will be used.
- Keep all raw meat at the bottom of the fridge to avoid drips.
- Do not use raw eggs in uncooked food, such as chocolate mousse.
- Make sure all food is thoroughly cooked.
- Do not reheat food.
- Use clean cloths and tea towels.
- If barbequing, check food is properly cooked using a temperature probe.
- Use separate knives and boards for cooked and raw foods.
- Wash all fruit and vegetables.
- Do not prepare foods if you are suffering from sickness or diarrhoea.
- Cover all cuts with a waterproof dressing.
- If you are not working in a kitchen then follow these additional guidelines:
- Prepare the food before you take it to the demonstration.
- Keep cooked and raw food in separate containers.
- If you are transporting foods, use a cool box.
- Make the area you are working in as clean as possible. Make sure there is hot water available for washing.
- Reproduction historical equipment can be used as long as it is in a good condition and has been thoroughly washed.
- If you are preparing food as an activity and cannot guarantee adequate hygiene, then the prepared food should not be eaten. Instead, you could give your members a recipe to try cooking at home, or make some samples yourself in advance for them to taste.
- Finally, when cooking with children, make sure that they are carefully supervised when using potentially dangerous equipment like sharp knives and hot surfaces.
Food and parties
Parties are popular activities with YAC clubs and members are often asked to bring food with them. If you are doing this, please remind parents/carers that the whole group will be consuming the food and to prepare, store and transport the food carefully. It’s helpful to have foods labelled so that children can see what they are eating. Make sure you let parents know in advance if there are any food allergies in your group.
If you would like advice about an event you are planning, then contact your local Environmental Health Officer. They can give advice and direct you to further information. If you are regularly preparing food with your club you might like to consider taking a Basic Food Hygiene Course (information available from your Local Authority), which will give you an understanding of legal requirements relating to food.