Food safety for babies is essential. Here are a few simple – but important – steps to storing and reheating foods to help keep your growing baby’s food safe.
Keeping Food Safe
A baby’s immune system is still developing, which means they’re more likely to become ill from food poisoning. In Australia, some of the main reasons babies and adults become sick after eating contaminated food include:
- Using contaminated equipment, food preparation surfaces or storage areas.
- Poor food hygiene practices – such as not washing your hands before and after preparing food – especially after handling raw food, going to the toilet or changing a nappy.
- Not cooking, storing or reheating food properly.
So, whether it’s delicious homemade baby food or store-bought ready-made meals, it’s important to keep your baby’s food safe by not only preparing, but also storing and reheating your baby’s food correctly.
How to Store Baby Food
Storage can play a major role in keeping your baby’s food safe – food that is not stored correctly can become spoiled or contaminated with harmful bacteria.
COMMERCIAL (STORE-BOUGHT) BABY FOOD
It’s important to always check the ‘use-by’ or ‘best-before’ dates printed on the packaging of commercial baby foods – both before you buy them and after storing them at home.
Always carefully check the packaging before use to make sure there are no holes, tears or leaks – food pouches may look or feel ‘bloated’ and jar lids may have ‘popped’. If there is any damage, the food may have become contaminated and should not be eaten.
Manufacturers should indicate on the packaging how to best store the pre-prepared food – including how long and where to store it after you have opened it.
HOME-MADE BABY FOOD
It’s important to always keep food safety in mind when preparing, cooking and refrigerating or freezing baby food made from scratch, especially when it’s intended for later use.
Most bacteria will grow rapidly in the ‘danger-zone’ temperatures between 5°C and 60°C. Cooked food that is still very hot can be cooled at room temperature until the temperature of the food drops to 60°C and then cooled to 5°C in the fridge or frozen as soon as possible.
- Storing in the fridge: Remember to check the temperature regularly – it should be 5°C or below. Food can be kept for up to two days in air-tight containers in the fridge.
- Storing in the freezer: After freezing baby food, it can be kept frozen at -18°C for up to a month
A useful tip is to label and date the containers before you put them in the fridge or freezer so you easily see what you have and when it should be used by.
When storing food in the fridge or freezer, remember to always keep raw and cooked foods separate (with the cooked food being placed above any raw food) to help reduce the risks of cross-contamination.
Reheating baby food
Even if frozen baby food has been correctly prepared and carefully stored at the right temperature, there may still be bacteria present so reheating to a safe temperature is important.
High-risk foods, such as meat, poultry, dairy, seafood, eggs, cooked rice and pasta, need to be heated to at least 75°C and then not allowed to drop below 60°C until they are ready to be eaten.
- When reheating frozen baby food, always stir the food well to prevent any ‘hot spots’.
- Always test your baby’s food to check it’s not too hot before offering it to them.
- Baby food shouldn’t be reheated more than once.
- Leftovers should always be discarded.
When it comes to keeping your baby safe from food poisoning, all the stages of their food preparation, storage and reheating are important and it always pays to be cautious – so ‘if in doubt, throw it out.’
Food on The Go
If you are heading out from home and need to bring along some food to keep your baby happy and healthy, there are a few food safety guidelines for babies and toddlers to follow. You will need to ensure any on-the-go food is appropriately stored, and discard food that isn’t kept at a safe temperature.
There are some easy ways to keep on-the-go food for babies safe. For example, place everything into a cool bag and then surround the food with frozen bottles of water to ensure freshness – even if you are away from home for several hours.
While eating leftovers is a great way for adults to reduce food waste, it’s not usually appropriate for kids. Especially if the leftovers haven’t been stored properly in the refrigerator or freezer, then they may contain harmful bacteria that can lead to sickness. If you are unsure whether leftover food for your child has been stored safely, it’s better to throw it out.
In addition to storing food safely, you’ll want to make sure you also know how to properly store baby formula. For more information and tips on when to start introducing solids and the best kinds of foods and textures to start with watch our video Introducing Solids or see our other articles Stage 1: From 6 Months – First Tastes and Weaning Equipment.