We all know you need to be extra careful when preparing or storing food for your little one. Our easy-to-follow tips are designed to keep health and safety in check.
Weaning can certainly get messy at times, but it's all part of the learning process for your baby. However, when you're cooking, preparing or storing food for your little one, there are some simple food safety tips and tricks that will help keep them healthy, happy and well-fed.
Top cooking safety tips for weaning your baby
Hygiene is really important when it comes to feeding your baby, but the following rules apply whoever you’re cooking for:
- Always wash your hands before preparing food and if you touch raw foods, wash your hands straight afterwards. Wash your hands after touching the bin too, as well as any family pets.
- Keep equipment, work surfaces and appliances clean. Particularly if you’re preparing meat, clean your equipment (eg boards, knives, bowls, forks) thoroughly before using it for something else. Chopping boards have been shown to harbour an alarming number of bacteria. A plastic one you can put in the dishwasher is a great option and having a couple to hand helps to avoid cross-contamination as you cook. Use one for raw and one for ready-to-eat foods. Examine your chopping boards regularly – plastic boards will damage over time with knife grooves and these incisions may harbour bacteria. Dry your board after washing with disposable kitchen paper – this minimises the time in which bacteria can multiply. Never stack damp boards together as this encourages bacterial growth.
- Wash your dishcloths and tea towels regularly. According to the NHS, kitchen sponges have been shown to have the highest number of germs in the home.
- Be aware of cross-contamination, so, for example, avoid getting meat juices on hands, then taps, dishcloths etc.
- Keep pets away from food and work surfaces.
- If your child doesn’t eat all their food, throw the rest away.
- Unless eggs carry the British Lion Mark you should cook eggs (both white and yolk) until firm. However, eggs produced under the British Lion Code of Practice (and carry the British Lion Mark) are considered very low risk for salmonella and are safe for babies to eat partially cooked.
- Cook shellfish thoroughly.
- Wash raw vegetables and fruit thoroughly, then scrub or peel as necessary.
- Don’t wash raw chicken. Bacteria will be killed by thorough cooking. Washing is more likely to spread bacteria to sinks, work surfaces and handles.
- Don’t reheat cooked food more than once.
- Cook food until piping hot all the way through, then allow to cool to a temperature suitable for baby.
How to store weaning recipes safely
As babies only eat small portions, batch cooking is a real time saver and helps prevent waste. Here are some simple guidelines for keeping food safe:
- Keep raw food away from ready-to-eat food.
- Keep raw meat in a sealed container at the bottom of the fridge, where it won’t touch or drip onto other foods.
- If you're batch cooking for your baby, cool the food as quickly as possible, within 1-2 hours. The NHS suggests putting the food in a sealed container and running it under the cold tap. Stir it a few times during the process so the food cools evenly.
- Once cooled, portion it up into small pots and freeze immediately, then you can take out only what you need. Label accurately with the food contents and the date when cooked and frozen – most food can be frozen for up to 3 months.
- Defrost food thoroughly before cooking, either in the fridge overnight or in a microwave on the defrost setting.
This page was last reviewed on 2 September 2019 by Kerry Torrens.
Kerry Torrens BSc. (Hons) PgCert MBANT is a Registered Nutritionist with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.
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