Many parents are discovering that homemade baby foods can be a nutritious and often more economical alternative to baby foods available in stores. To ensure that the food is safe for your growing infant, follow these simple steps for selecting, preparing, and storing food.
Always begin with good quality ingredients. It’s best to use fresh food whenever possible, but you can also use frozen or canned foods. If you’re using processed fruits and vegetables, try to find products without added sugar, especially canned fruit packed in syrup.
Never feed these products to your baby or use them in homemade baby food:
— Dairy products made from raw, unpasteurized milk (may contain bacteria that can cause serious illnesses)
— Honey (puts your baby at high risk for botulism, a very dangerous illness)
— Home-canned food (may contain harmful bacteria if it was canned improperly)
— Outdated canned food
— Food from dented, rusted, bulging, or leaking cans or jars
— Food from cans or jars without labels
Preparing Baby Food
Because infants are at a higher risk of getting a foodborne illness than older children or healthy adults, it’s particularly important to follow these guidelines carefully:
— Wash your hands and any equipment used to prepare the food.
— Use separate cutting boards for meat, poultry and fish and for non-meat foods to avoid cross-contamination.
— Wash fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly under clean, running water. Even if you plan to peel a fruit or vegetable, such as cantaloupe or squash, be sure to wash it first.
— Store raw meats, poultry, fish, and dairy products in the coldest part of the refrigerator immediately after purchase.
— Cook meat, poultry, and fish thoroughly to kill any bacteria that might be present. Be sure to use a meat thermometer and cook all meats to an internal temperature of at least 160 ºF, fish to at least 145 ºF, and all white meat poultry to an internal temperature of at least 165 ºF. — Check the Minimum Cooking Temperatures chart to be sure.
Storing and Reheating Baby Food
First and foremost: always throw away any uneaten leftover food in the baby’s dish!
Other ways to keep your baby’s food safe:
— Never allow cooked food to stand at room temperature for more than 2 hours (or more than one hour when the temperature is above 90 degrees).
— Do not store prepared baby food in the refrigerator for more than 24 hours for meat, poultry, fish, and eggs or more than 48 hours for fruits and vegetables.
— Thoroughly reheat refrigerated or frozen food to an internal temperature of 165 ºF.
— Never defrost baby foods by leaving them at room temperature or in standing water.
— To freeze prepared baby food safely, put it into labeled and dated containers. You may freeze it for up to one month.
For more information, check these resources:
Baby Food and Infant Formula (FoodSafety.gov)
Get the basics on baby food safety.
Home-Prepared Baby Food (USDA)
This booklet provides excellent tips on preparing all sorts of baby foods.
By Dr. Michelle Annette Smith, Senior Policy Analyst, Office of Food Safety, Produce Safety Staff, FDA