It is estimated that there are 2.4 million cases of food borne illness in the UK every year.* As you start thinking about the exciting new world of weaning, it’s important not to forget that any food you serve needs to be safe. Babies and young children don’t have the same immune system as us adults (or even older children) so we need to make sure we’re extra careful with their little tummies!
Storing your Food
The way you store food once you get it home from the supermarket will help you keep your family safe by reducing the risk of cross contamination between raw and ready to eat foods as well as helping you to reduce food wastage.
• Most importantly, check the temperature of your fridge!
To reduce the risk of food poisoning, make sure your fridge is running between 1-5⁰C. If you’re not sure, it might be worth investing in a fridge thermometer (you can usually pick one of these up for less than £5)
• Organise your fridge to make sure you store raw meat and fish separately from ready to eat foods. The best place to store raw meat and raw fish is the bottom shelf – not only does this prevent cross contamination of juices dripping onto other foods below, but is also the coldest part of the fridge… a win-win!
• Keep cooked and ready to eat foods higher up, saving the doors for condiments, jams and juices as the doors are most at risk of temperature fluctuations
• First in – First out: When returning from the supermarket, put new foods at the back so using older products first will come naturally!
Use by vs Best Before
It’s important to know the difference and to never serve a baby food that has gone past it’s use by date. Put simply….
- Use by dates are there for your safety and must not be ignored
- Best before dates are about quality; which means food is safe to eat past its best before date, but just might not taste as good!
- And don’t forget to keep an eye on packs that have been opened - Opening a product; such as ham or milk, will change the shelf life and usually mean it needs to be used within the next few days, so make sure you check the back of pack for this information!
When preparing food for your little one, making sure you’re preparing food on a clean surface, with clean hands, using clean equipment is essential!
- Wash your hands – Always wash your hands thoroughly before preparing any food, and after handling raw meat
- Clean work surfaces - Disinfect food preparation surfaces using a clean dishcloth before starting any food preparation. If you can, use a paper towel squirted with anti-bacterial spray to clean surfaces after preparing raw meat and poultry as this will help make sure that you don’t pick up food poisoning germs and spread them around the kitchen!
- Clean utensils – Make sure equipment is clean before you start using it and if you can, opt for colour coded equipment to reduce the risk of cross contamination between raw and ready to eat foods. Never prepare ready to eat food such as salad on a board that was previously used to prepare raw meat.
- Wash fruit and Veg – They might be low risk foods, but bacteria can also be found on fruit and veggies too so don’t forget to wash these thoroughly under cold running water before serving to baby. If you’re using frozen veggies in baby’s food, make sure that these are cooked before serving to your baby according to the back of pack information.
Cooking for Baby
Cooking veggies by steaming/ boiling or roasting is pretty straightforward, but those first tastes don’t last for long and you’ll soon be branching out to more exciting foods for your baby to try, many of which may include meat or fish.
Regardless of how you serve meat to your little one, it’s important to make sure that it is thoroughly cooked! What to do with leftovers? Babies have little tummies and a daily changing appetite!
• Make sure you cool any leftovers you want to keep as quickly as possible, but always within 2 hours (Follow @Foodsafetymum Instagram page for some tips on how to cool food quickly!)
• As a rule of thumb, leftovers can be kept in the fridge and used within 2 days (1 day for rice dishes) but if you want longer than this, then make sure you pop your leftovers in the freezer!
• Remember though that foods can only be reheated once so make sure you divide your puree into baby friendly portions before storing in the fridge or freezer!
Unless served cold straight from the fridge, leftover foods for baby should always be reheated until piping hot; which means steaming throughout. Don’t be tempted to just partially reheat food for your baby to avoid having to wait for it to cool!
Hopefully you find this blog useful in helping you prepare for the weaning journey with your little one! For more information, follow Jenna on Instagram @Foodsafetymum or visit www.foodsafetymum.co.uk
This blog was written by Jenna Brown, aka the Food Safety Mum (@Foodsafetymum) Jenna is a fully qualified Environmental Health Practitioner specialising in food safety and public health. In 2011, Jenna obtained a First Class Honours (BSc Hons) degree in Environmental Health and later gained full qualification as an Environmental Health Practitioner with the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH). With over 10 years experience specialising in food safety and public health management in both the public and private sector, Jenna is also a Mum to 2 little girls and is passionate about using her expertise to educate others to give them confidence when cooking at home or when eating out and about! For lots more food safety advice, follow Jenna on Instagram @Foodsafetymum or visit her website: www.foodsafetymum.co.uk