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Handling Baby's Food Safely

DOs:

  • Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for preparing bottles before filling them with formula or milk. Observe "use-by" dates on formula cans.
  • Check to see that the safety button on the lid of commercial baby-food jars is down. If the jar lid doesn't "pop" when opened, don't use the product. Discard any jars with chipped glass or rusty lids.
  • Use detergent and hot water to wash all blenders, food processors, and utensils (including the can opener) that come in contact with a baby's foods. Rinse well with hot water after washing.
  • Transport bottles and food in an insulated cooler when traveling with the baby. Perishable items (milk, formula, or food) left out of the refrigerator or without a cold source for more than two hours should not be used. Cold temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from multiplying.
    • Place the ice chest in the passenger compartment of the car. It's cooler than the trunk.
    • Use frozen gel packs to keep food or bottles cold on long outings.
  • Freeze home-made baby food by putting the mixture into an ice cube tray. One cube equals one serving. Cover with heavy-duty plastic wrap and place the tray in the freezer. Once the food cubes are frozen, pop them into a freezer bag or airtight container and date it. Store for up to three months (discard unused food after three months). As an option, small jars can also be used for freezing. Leave about 1/2 inch of space at the top because food expands when frozen.

DON'Ts:

  • Don't make more formula than you will need. Formula can become contaminated during preparation. If a large quantity of formula is prepared and not properly refrigerated, bacteria can multiply to very large numbers. The more bacteria there are, the greater the chances for foodborne illness. Preparing formula in smaller quantities on an as-needed basis greatly reduces the possibility of contamination. If using powder, reconstitute immediately before feeding. If using liquid concentrates or ready-to-feed products, follow label instructions provided by the manufacturer.
  • Don't put a bottle back in the refrigerator if the baby doesn't finish it. Harmful bacteria from a baby's mouth can be introduced into the bottle during feeding; they can grow and multiply even after refrigeration (some bacteria can grow at refrigerator temperatures) and reheating. The temperature that's needed to kill harmful bacteria is extremely high for consumption by a baby. Also, it's not a good idea to repeatedly reheat formula because lots of nutrients can be lost.
  • Don't feed a baby from a jar of baby food and then put it in the refrigerator. Saliva on the spoon may contaminate the remaining food. Instead, put a serving size on a dish. Refrigerate the food remaining in the jar. Throw away the food in the serving dish that's not eaten.
  • Don't use honey as a sweetener to entice babies to drink water from a bottle. Honey isn't safe for children less than a year old. It can contain the Clostridium botulinum organism that could cause serious illness or death.
  • Don't give raw or unpasteurized milk or unpasteurized fruit or vegetable juice to infants or young children. Unpasteurized milk or juice may contain harmful bacteria. Unpasteurized juices are normally found in the refrigerated sections of grocery stores, health-food stores, cider mills, or farm markets. Such juices must have this warning on the label:
    • This product has not been pasteurized and therefore may contain harmful bacteria that can cause serious illness in children, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems.
    • Juices that are fresh-squeezed and sold by the glass, such as at farmer's markets, at roadside stands, or in some juice bars, may not be pasteurized, or otherwise treated to ensure their safety. Warning labels are not required on these products. Young children should avoid these juices.
    • If you can't tell if a juice has been processed to destroy harmful bacteria, either don't use the product or boil it to kill any harmful bacteria
  • Don't leave formula out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Harmful bacteria can grow rapidly in food at room temperature. Discard formula that's been left out for more than two hours.
  • Don't place dirty diapers in the same bag with bottles or food. Harmful bacteria from a dirty diaper can spread to baby's food.
  • Don't give infants "teas" brewed from star anise. Brewed "teas" containing star anise have been associated with illnesses affecting infants. The illnesses ranged from serious neurological effects, such as seizures, to vomiting, jitteriness, and rapid eye movement.

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