Protecting young children from foodborne illness

Half the estimated 48 million foodborne illness cases each year are children, help protect them with these tips.

The Partnership for Food Safety Education and Michigan State University Extension reminds us that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) surveillance system combatting foodborne illness estimates 48 million Americans become ill with foodborne illness every year. Children account for half of all of these illnesses. Most susceptible to this are young children under five who have the highest rates, as reported by the CDC.  Children’s immune systems are not yet fully developed so their ability to fight infection is reduced, and they have a lower body weight so a smaller dose of a pathogen can make them sick. Children also have limited control over their diet and related food safety risks.

Here are some tips to help keep your young ones safe this holiday season and throughout the year:

  • Wash hands and surfaces often. This is a simple and effective way to help prevent diseases, such as colds, flu, and food poisoning.  Harmful germs like norovirus can live on surfaces for weeks. These germs can cause serious illness and can pass from hands to mouth to food.
  • Know the high-risk foods for children under five: raw or undercooked meats, poultry and eggs, unpasteurized milk or juice and raw or undercooked seafood. Cooked meats, poultry and eggs should be checked for correct temperatures with a food thermometer.
  • For babies, monitor baby food that has been opened or freshly made, these should be refrigerated within two hours of use and can be kept for one-two days in the refrigerator. 
  • Do not feed babies from the baby food container, then store it in the fridge for later use. Instead, remove a portion of the food to another bowl or plate and then serve it to the child. Harmful bacteria can multiply and make the child sick, so don’t “double dip” with baby food. Never put baby food in the refrigerator if the baby doesn’t finish it. Your best bet is to not feed your baby directly from the jar of baby food. If the baby or child needs more food, use a clean spoon to serve another portion. Throw away any food in the dish that’s not eaten. If you do feed a baby from a jar, always discard any that remains.
  • Check out this healthy kid fact sheet and infographic with a great tip sheet for parents. Use this for the holiday season and all year round to keep your children healthy. Keeping food safe will help to keep children safe from foodborne illnesses.  

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