By Debra Smiley Holtzman
Keeping your child’s food safe is an important part of keeping your baby herself safe. From the time you prepare or purchase a food product until you store it and eventually feed it to your little darling, you need to keep safety in mind and be aware of the issues that require parental attention.
• Read the packaging. Check the use-by date on any product your baby will ingest. Check again when you remove baby food, juice or formula from your cabinet to give it to your baby. If the expiration date has passed, don’t use it. Wash the lid before opening it, then listen for the pop. If the lid of the baby food jar doesn’t pop, it has not been sealed safely. After opening it, check for chipped glass or rusty lids.
• Always wash your hands thoroughly before beginning food or formula preparation.
• Do not use the microwave to heat formula, meats, eggs or jars of food. Microwave ovens can cook inconsistently, creating hot spots that can burn your baby’s mouth.
• Do not feed your baby directly from the jar, unless he or she will eat all the food offered in the first sitting. Put a small amount into a clean bowl and feed your child from the bowl. Bacteria from the baby’s mouth can grow and multiply; neither refrigerating nor reheating will prevent or destroy this contamination.
• Be sure containers are clean. Sterilize new bottles, nipples and rings prior to the first use. Then, after each subsequent use, wash bottles, caps, nipples and other utensils in a dishwasher or in hot tap water with dishwashing liquid; rinse in hot water.
• Store food safely. Once opened, baby food (solids or liquids) should not be left at room temperature for more than one hour. When you store food that has been opened, label the container with the date it was opened. Store unused baby food in the original jar with a tightly closed lid. To know whether a particular product can be frozen, read the manufacturer’s recommendation on the label.
• Do not freeze leftover formula. It can be refrigerated for two days, but keep it covered.
Time Limits for Saving Baby Food
Follow these general time limits for safe refrigeration or freezing of baby food products:
• Strained fruits and vegetables: Refrigerate for two to three days; freeze for six to eight months.
• Strained meats and eggs: Refrigerate for one day; freeze for one to two months.
• Meat/vegetable combinations: Refrigerate for one to two days; freeze for one to two months.
• Homemade baby foods: Refrigerate for one to two days; freeze for three to four months.
Related reading: Storing and Using Breast Milk
Debra Smiley Holtzman is a nationally recognized safety expert and author of the award-winning book The Safe Baby: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Home Safety (Sentient Publications, 2004). She is also the safety expert on Discovery Health Channel’s Make Room for Baby. For more safety tips, check out Debra’s Web site at www.thesafetyexpert.com.