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Baby food and food safety

Baby eating from spoonBabies, like the elderly, are especially vulnerable to illness caused by contaminated foods. This is because their immune systems are not sufficiently developed in order to fight off infections in the way that you or I can. Something that might give us a mild stomach upset can be far more serious for babies and infants. That’s why we need to take particular care when feeding them and making sure that any food is stored correctly.

How to tell if your baby has food poisoning

Because babies can’t tell us what’s wrong with them, food poisoning is quite difficult to diagnose. For example it can present itself in a number of ways that could be attributed to other types of illness, with symptoms such as fever, irritability, persistent crying, nausea or vomiting or chills. Other symptoms include stomach pains or cramps and diarrhoea, which could be very watery and even contain blood or mucus. As we know, once bacteria get a hold, they multiply very rapidly. Earlier this year one baby died and 14 others were seriously ill when Bacillus Cereus was found to be present in a batch of drip feed used in neonatal care at a hospital.

So, how can we take steps to provide safe food for babies and infants in our care?

The first rule of food safety is to always wash your hands before and after handling food: in particular after changing nappies, visiting the loo or handling pets. If you’re using pre-prepared baby food in jars be on the lookout for chipped glass or rusty lids. Most come equipped with a safety button on the lid, so make sure that this isn’t swollen or the contents aren’t leaking. If in doubt, don’t use it. For food packaged in plastic or foil packs, you again need to be vigilant for leaking or swelling. Once you’ve opened the jar or package, it’s best to decant a small portion into a clean dish rather than feeding directly from the jar. This way, if you don’t use it all the remainder of the jar can be stored safely in the fridge. Feeding this way avoids ‘double-dipping’ into the jar with the same spoon that baby has had in his/her mouth. Another tip is not to share spoons. It might be tempting to demonstrate to baby how to eat, but do so using your own spoon, so that germs from your mouth aren’t transferred to the baby’s spoon and vice versa.

If in doubt, throw it out!

Green baby foodBacteria love warm temperatures, so please ensure that you don’t leave opened jars or plates of pureed or liquid baby food at room temperature for more than two hours. You can store unused opened baby food in the refrigerator, but not for longer than three days. If you don’t know how long it’s been in there or it look or smells suspect, discard it. For infant formula a good rule of thumb is to only prepare as much as you need and always follow instructions on the label. For safe preparation always use sterilised bottles, teats etc. and bring tap water to a rolling boil before mixing. It should then be allowed to cool quickly to body temperature before feeding baby. Other general food safety rules should also be followed such as using clean utensils, making sure surfaces are clean, tying back hair when preparing food and wearing clean clothing. If you do all of the above, hopefully the reason baby’s crying is not because he has food poisoning. If you want to learn more about basic food safety, why not take our online course? It only costs from £15 and can be completed at a time and pace convenient to you. To find out more, please visit Course/List