Pregnant women, infants, and young children are particularly vulnerable to foodborne illness since their immune systems are not as strong, so it is important to practice food safety in your home. Here are some food safety guidelines and helpful tips to keep you and your family healthy.
Foodborne illness is usually the result of poor handling of foods, improper cooking, or inadequate storage of foods. This allows for bacteria to grow and thrive. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 48 million foodborne illness cases occur in the United States every year with some resulting in hospitalizations and even death1. It’s impossible to control how other people and restaurants handle their food, but the good news is that you can prevent foodborne illness in your home by following some simple food safety practices.
One of the first and most important ways to prevent foodborne illness is to wash your hands. The best practice is to wash hands for at least 20 seconds, rinse, and dry well. Have your children wash with you and teach them the importance of washing hands before meals, snacks, and after handling foods. I like to sing the “ABC’s” or “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” with my son. Both songs are just about 20 seconds long, so it’s a great way to teach your child without having to count to 20. My son enjoys singing his song and I feel better knowing that he’s learning to wash his hands the right way. Don’t forget to wash the top of your hands, fingernails, and between fingers. These spaces are often overlooked and they can be a great hiding place for germs and bacteria.
Other areas of concern for foodborne illness are in the preparation and handling of foods. Here are a few simple tips:
- Clean – Keep countertops clean and wash after preparing food. Keep uncooked meat and poultry away from ready-to-eat foods and fresh produce on the countertop, in the fridge, and even in grocery bags. Always wash fresh produce before eating or preparing.
- Cook – Reheat leftovers to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Always cook eggs, meat, poultry, and seafood to proper internal temperature. You can use a food thermometer to make sure meat, poultry, and fish are properly cooked.
- Cool – Never leave food out for more than two hours. If it goes beyond this point, simply throw the rest away. Never put hot foods in the fridge, which can warm other foods in the fridge and even lower the temperature in the fridge. Let the hot foods cool on the countertop first and then place in the fridge.
Storing Baby Foods
Now that we went over a few of the basics, here are some tips for preparing and storing baby foods:
- Store open jars/pouches of baby foods in the refrigerator for no more than three days, after that throw it out.
- Don’t leave open containers of baby foods out at room temperature for more than two hours.
- Don’t share spoons. There can be a lot of bacteria in our mouths and sharing spoons can allow bacteria to travel from one mouth to the next.
- Don’t double dip. When you are preparing a meal for your little one, instead of feeding them directly from the baby food jar, take some of the food out of the jar and put it in a bowl. Double dipping can allow germs and bacteria from your little one’s mouth to be transferred into the jar of baby food. Once there, the bacteria may grow and cause them to become sick. If you need more food, you can always add more to the bowl.
Higher Risk Foods
Lastly, be aware of foods that have a higher chance of being contaminated with bacteria2 and need extra care when preparing and storing:
- Meat and poultry
- Raw fruits and vegetables
- Lettuce and other leafy greens
- Alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts
- Raw milk or cheese
- Raw flour
Check the CDC website for the most up-to-date information on food safety. Protecting your family from foodborne illness is easy when you remember to practice food safety in your kitchen!