Avoiding food poisoning
There are an estimated 5.4 million food poisoning cases in Australia annually, and food-borne illnesses are a significant public health problem with symptoms ranging from stomach aches to serious illness, hospitalisation or, in rare cases, death. One in five cases of food poisoning is linked to poor food practices in the home, according to Safe Food Queensland.
Food safety is important for the whole family, but babies and young children are of particular concern. Properly processed baby food in jars, cans or shelf-stable packs is practically free from bacteria until you open it. But when it comes to preparing your own home foods, or to chilled or frozen baby foods, it's really important to pay close attention to your food safety practices.
Processed baby food in unopened jars, cans or shelf-stable packs can be left unrefrigerated, but chilled or frozen baby foods need careful handling when you're out and about. In addition, make sure you refrigerate unused portions and follow the pack instructions carefully.
Safety on the go
We've come to think of jars and cans of baby food as fairly indestructible. You can toss a jar of apple puree into your bag and open it later in the day with no ill effects. But chilled or frozen foods need to be treated with more care — you need to keep them cold if you're taking them with you on the run.
Top six tips for baby food safety
- All baby foods, once opened, must be kept in the fridge.
- Carefully follow the instructions for serving and storing food packages.
- Never reheat already heated or eaten-from foods.
- Maintain a fridge temperature of between 0 and 4°C and a freezer temperature close to -18°C.
- Food should be cooked to a temperature of at least 60°C or hotter.
- Microwaves can cook food unevenly, leaving some parts of the meal raw or under-heated. To avoid this, cut food into evenly sized pieces, put larger or thicker items towards the outside edge of the dish, and cover the food with a microwave-safe lid.
Baby food and nutrition
Experts have described commercial infant foods as "convenience foods for babies". In light of this, the best approach is to choose the products wisely and use when convenient, but the majority of the time your baby's diet should consist of your own healthy home foods. Find out how to make your own baby food.