“Washing hands is one of the most important actions parents can take to prevent food-borne illness in their children.” (FDA)
Wash, wash, wash!!
Everything that will come into contact with the food you’re about to prepare needs to be washed. This includes counters, pots and pans, blending tools, utensils, cutting boards and most importantly, your hands.
The FDA guidelines that follow offer some tips to safely handle foods being prepared for babies.
Start with good quality ingredients using fresh whenever possible. Frozen and canned foods can also be used but look for products without added sugar or salt.
- Dairy products made from raw, unpasteurized milk (they may contain bacteria that can cause serious illnesses)
- Honey (puts your baby at high risk for botulism, a very dangerous illness)
- Home-canned food (may contain harmful bacteria if it was canned improperly)
- Outdated canned food
- Food from dented, rusted, bulging, or leaking cans or jars
- Food from cans or jars without labels
- Food from jars with broken seals (if the safety button on the lid doesn’t pop when opening, don’t use it)
- Home-prepared spinach, beets, turnips, carrots, or collard greens contain high levels of nitrates that could make your baby sick. Do not feed them to babies under 6 months old.
- Wash your hands and anything else that will come in contact with the food.
- Never use the same cutting board and cooking utensils for fruits and vegetables that has been used for meats. After handling any raw meat, always wash your hands!
- All fruits and vegetables you plan to prepare also need to be thoroughly washed, even if you plan to peel them (like cantaloupe or squash).
- Prior to preparation, store all raw meats and dairy in the coldest part of the fridge (not the door) ensuring they are wrapped securely so they don’t drip and contaminate other foods.
- All meat, including red meat, poultry (including eggs) and fish, must be well-done. This means:
- red meats must be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160°F
- white meat poultry must be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 170°F and dark meat poultry must be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 180° F
- fish to an internal temperature of 160°F
- check the temperature with a meat thermometer
- Food can remain at room temperature for no more than 2 hours (including serving time) at which point it needs to either be stored or thrown away. Always throw away leftover food from your baby’s dish. Bacteria from your baby’s mouth can multiply and become harmful.
- Prepared fruits and vegetables can be kept in the fridge up to 48 hours, meats (red, poultry, fish and eggs) no more than 24 hours.
- If freezing, label the container with the date and type of food and use within 1-3 months (less is better).
- Thaw frozen baby food by leaving in a closed container in the refrigerator overnight (may take up to 12 hours).
- Use a microwave safe glass container to thaw in the microwave using 15 second increments and stir frequently. Microwaving can cause hot-spots and uneven heating so stir well to avoid burning your baby’s mouth.
- Gently heat using a pan over a low setting on the stove.
- Never thaw the food by leaving it on the kitchen counter or in standing water.
- Completely reheat refrigerated or frozen baby food to at least 165°F before serving. Allow food to cool to lukewarm.
- Never refreeze food.
- Use thawed fruits and vegetables within 48 hours from the time it was removed from the freezer, 24 hours for meats and eggs.
- Do not store uneaten food using the container your baby fed from. Saliva can contaminate the food and cultivate bacteria growth.
- Throw out any leftover food from your baby’s dish.