Keep your baby safe with these food safety practices

Follow these simple guidelines to keep your child safe from food illnesses.

February 24, 2014 - Author: Eileen Haraminac, Eileen Haraminac, Michigan State University Extension

Food safety is important when addressing the needs of a new baby or toddler. Infants and children are vulnerable and at risk to foodborne illness because their immune systems are not yet fully developed and able to fight off infections.

It’s extremely important to take extra care when handling and preparing their food and formula. In addition, the stomachs of infants and young children produce less acid, making it easier for harmful microorganisms to invade their bodies. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently created rules to make infant formula safe and nutritious. The study, with ongoing research for two decades, now has specific guidelines for manufacturers to adhere to. The guidelines ensure that formula manufacturers will test their products for salmonella and other pathogens before distribution. The rules also require formula companies to prove to the FDA that they are including specific nutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals) in their products.

Michigan State University Extension recommends that you follow these tips to keep breast milk, formula and baby food safe for babies:

  • Wash your hands to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria from your hands to the baby’s mouth. Effective handwashing is in warm, soapy water, scrubbing for at least 20 seconds. Clean bottles and nipples after every use. Use dish soap and hot water to wash and rinse all utensils used to prepare and serve food (including the can opener). Wash food prep and eating areas with hot, soapy water and rinse and sanitize with one teaspoon of bleach mix with one quart of water.
  • Breast milk: Collect expressed breast milk in sterilized four ounce plastic bottles and plastic bottle liners and immediately store in the refrigerator. Use milk within 24 to 48 hours or freeze immediately in sterilized, four ounce plastic or glass bottles or sealable plastic bags. Label with the date and use older milk first. Frozen breast milk can be stored for three to six months. Thaw breast milk in warm water only. To distribute the fat, shake the container of milk before serving.  Do not refreeze breast milk. Discard unused portions of breast milk left in the bottle after feeding.
  • Formula: Fill sterilized bottles with just enough formula for one feeding. Throw away leftovers. Harmful bacteria from the baby’s mouth may have entered the bottle during feeding and could grow to unsafe levels. Tightly cover and place in the refrigerator after filling the bottle. Open cans of liquid ready-to-use formula will remain safe for up to 48 hours. Use prepared infant formula within 24 hours. Observe the “use by” and “expiration” dates on formula cans. Vitamin levels and food quality deteriorate after the expiration date.

Follow these food safe practices to ensure good health for baby and toddlers.

To contact an expert in your area, visit, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

Tags: family, food & health, msu extension, safe food & water

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