[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]It is estimated that there are 2.4million cases of food borne illness in the UK every year and if you’ve ever suffered with food poisoning, you’ll sympathise with just how nasty it can be! As babies and young children don’t have the same immune system as us adults (or even older children) we need to make sure we’re extra careful with their tiny tums. The good news is that there are so many things you can do whilst preparing and cooking food to help keep your family safe from food poisoning…
DURING PREPARATIONWhen it comes to food safety, keeping clean is so important. In reality, this doesn’t mean having a ‘spotless’ kitchen but instead, a clean environment where you prepare food, with clean hands, using clean equipment! Here are some top tips to help you organise your kitchen and help you safely prepare meals for your baby and the rest of the family:
- 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 prep. If you can, use a paper towel squirted with antibacterial spray to clean surfaces after preparing raw meat and poultry as this will help to make sure that you don’t pick up food poisoning germs and inadvertently spread them around the kitchen!
- Separate Raw and Cooked Food - It’s important to make sure you do everything you can to avoid the spread of bacteria from raw meat to any ready to eat foods during both storage and preparation.
- 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 according to the back of pack information before serving to your baby.
- Don’t be tempted to wash raw chicken! – washing your chicken will not ‘wash off’ the bacteria (only cooking will make it safe to eat!). If you wash chicken, instead you are more likely to cause food poisoning by inadvertently spreading more bacteria around the kitchen.
DURING COOKINGCooking high risk foods such as meat and poultry to a high enough temperature will ensure any harmful bacteria are killed. Remember – just because it’s cooked on the outside, doesn’t mean it’s cooked on the inside! Here’s how you can check that meat is safe for your baby to eat…
- Use a food probe - checking the temperature of the thickest part of meat is the most accurate way (and the way I would recommend) to check food is cooked, whilst also making sure it is not overcooked! If using a probe, make sure the probe is clean and the meat has a core temperature of 75C for at least 30 seconds.
- Cut into the thickest part of the meat to make sure there is no pink meat visible
- The meat must be steaming hot throughout
- Meat juices run clear
KITCHEN ESSENTIALSOn our Feeding & Weaning page, we have a full list of weaning essentials to help you get started on the weaning journey. Aside from those crucial weaning items, I’ve put together a list of my top 10 kitchen items to help make it a little bit easier to make sure that the food you serve your little one and the rest of the family is safe!
- Food probe –I consider a food probe a must-have for any kitchen! You can’t tell from the outside whether food is cooked, so a food probe eliminates the guesswork whilst also helping to prevent over-cooking – it’s a win-win!
- Colour coded equipment –Choosing colour coded chopping boards is the simplest and easiest way to reduce the risk of cross contamination between raw and ready to eat foods
- Freezer labels –Ever pulled a random container of food out of the freezer having no idea what it is or how long it’s been in there?! I’m a huge fan of batch cooking with a little one at home so keeping track of what is in your freezer is a must!
- Portion pots –Babies have small appetites so being able to portion their food is a must! Remember when grabbing food from the freezer that you should only reheat food once so having small portions will help make sure you are only reheating as much as you need and reducing your food wastage!
- Anti-bacterial cleaner –Make sure you have an anti-bacterial cleaner to help keep your kitchen sides clean before cooking and after handling high risk foods such as raw meat and poultry
- A selection of cloths and tea towels –Make sure you have enough cloths and tea towels so you can change these daily!
- Air-tight containers –These containers are great for storing dry food items as well as leftovers in the fridge! By keeping moisture out, airtight containers help keep food fresher and safer for longer.
- Food Cover– A mesh food cover is a must have for any kitchen to make sure those pesky flies don’t land on your food - whether you’re dining alfresco or cooling your leftovers!
- Fridge thermometer – If your fridge has a built-in thermometer, you might not need one of these but if not, then it would be worth investing in a fridge thermometer to make sure your fridge is running below 5⁰C. You can usually pick one of these up for less than £5!
- A colander– Okay so you probably do already have one of these but don’t forget that you’ll need to wash all fruit and veg before giving it to baby! Did you know… Norovirus (the most common cause of gastroenteritis) can be found on foods such as lettuce and raspberries?!