There’s no doubt that there are so many exciting things to think about when you begin your weaning journey with your little one; choosing a highchair, shopping for snazzy bibs, debating which cup and cutlery is best and deciding what amazing tastes to expose your baby to first… but it’s important not to forget that amongst all of this, any food you serve needs to be safe! Babies and young children don’t have the same immune system as us adults (or even older children) so food safety is essential. We need to make sure we’re extra careful with their little tummies!
It is estimated that there are 2.4 million cases of food-borne illness in the UK every year but it’s not just restaurants that cause food poisoning – cooking at home can also make you (or your family) sick. The good news is that there are so many things you can do whilst preparing food to prevent this happening. Below, we give our top tips for baby food safety.
Keep it clean
When it comes to food safety, keeping clean is so important. In reality, this doesn’t mean having a ‘spotless’ kitchen but instead, a clean environment where you prepare food, with clean hands, using clean equipment! Here are some top tips to help you organise your kitchen and help you safely prepare meals for your baby and the rest of the family:
- Wash your hands – always wash your hands thoroughly before preparing any food, and particularly after handling raw meat
- Clean work surfaces – disinfect food preparation surfaces using a clean dishcloth before starting any food prep. If you can, use a paper towel squirted with antibacterial spray to clean surfaces after preparing raw meat and poultry as this will help to make sure that you don’t pick up food poisoning germs and spread them around the kitchen
- Clean utensils – make sure equipment is clean before you start using it and if you can, opt for colour coded equipment to reduce the risk of cross contamination between raw and ready to eat foods. Never prepare ready to eat food such as salad on a board that was previously used to prepare raw meat
- Wash fruit and veg – they might be low risk foods, but bacteria can also be found on fruit and veggies too so don’t forget to wash these thoroughly under cold running water before serving to baby. If you’re using frozen veggies in baby’s food, make sure that these are cooked according to the back of pack information before serving to your baby.
- Don’t be tempted to wash raw chicken! – washing your chicken will not ‘wash off’ the bacteria (only cooking will make it safe to eat!). If you wash chicken, instead you are more likely to cause food poisoning by inadvertently spreading more bacteria around the kitchen.
Food Safety – Cooking food for your baby checklist!
Cooking veggies by steaming, boiling or roasting is pretty straightforward, but those first tastes don’t last for long and you’ll soon be branching out to more exciting foods for your baby to try, many of which may include meat or fish. Regardless of how you serve meat to your little one, it’s important to make sure that it is thoroughly cooked.
Remember – just because it’s cooked on the outside, doesn’t mean it’s cooked on the inside! Here’s how you can check that meat is safe for your baby to eat…
- Use a food probe - checking the temperature of the thickest part of the meat is the most accurate way (and the way I would recommend) to check food is cooked, whilst also making sure it is not overcooked! If using a probe, make sure the probe is clean and the meat has a core temperature of 75C for at least 30 seconds.
- Cut into the thickest part of the meat to make sure there is no pink meat visible
- The meat must be steaming hot throughout
- Meat juices run clear
If you find your baby puree needs thinning after cooking, check out Jenna’s article Top tips for thinning baby purees
Cool foods quickly
I am a huge fan of keeping leftovers to use as an easy meal another day! After cooking, make sure you cool any leftovers and pop into the fridge or freezer as soon as possible. Never allow food to sit out on the side for more than 2 hours after cooking.
Be aware that simply putting your hot food in the fridge may not be enough to make sure it is cooled down quickly and safely. There are lots of things you can do to help speed up the cooling of food, such as dividing into smaller portions, using an ice bath or stirring regularly.
Keep leftovers for another day
Whatever your situation, whether you have children or not… reheating leftovers is always a good idea! As a rule of thumb, leftover food can be kept in the fridge and used within 2 days (1 day for rice) but if you want longer than this, then pop your leftovers in the freezer.
Even if you used raw meat or veg which was previously frozen, once cooked you can freeze the leftovers. Freezing “pauses” the growth of bacteria, locks in nutrients, prevents spoilage and ultimately helps reduce wastage!
Defrosting baby purees
If defrosting baby purees, the best way to do this would be overnight in the fridge and use within 24 hours. But, did you know that you can cook baby purees from frozen?!
Reheating baby purees
Baby purees are often best served at room temperature, but don’t be tempted to partially reheat food for your baby to avoid having to wait for it to cool. Unless served cold straight from the fridge, baby purees should always be reheated until piping hot, which means steaming throughout, to kill off bacteria.
The best ways to reheat baby purees are:
- On the hob
- In the microwave
If cooking a portion of baby puree from frozen, make sure you increase the cooking time and stir regularly (every 20 – 30 seconds) to ensure there are no hidden hot spots and that the puree is evenly heated so it is piping hot throughout.
Remember that foods can only be reheated once so make sure you divide your puree into baby friendly portions before storing in the fridge or freezer!
We hope these tips and tricks have helped you become more confident when it comes to food safety for your little ones!
Jenna is a fully qualified Environmental Health Practitioner specialising in food safety and public health.
She obtained a first-class Batchelor (BSc) degree in Environmental Health and has since qualified as an Environmental Health Practitioner with the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH). Over the past 12 years she has worked in both the public and private sector advising businesses on all things food safety and public health.
Since becoming a Mum to her 2-year-old little girl Mia, she understands first-hand how much things change when you have a little one to think about too! She has always been passionate about food safety and her mission as Food Safety Mum is to help give parents confidence when cooking at home or when eating out and about!
For lots more food safety advice, follow Jenna on Instagram