1. Home
  2. Childhood Nutrition
  3. Keeping Food Safe

Keeping Food Safe

Food safety is particularly important for babies and toddlers. Food poisoning can be especially severe for babies and toddlers because their digestive and immune systems are still developing. By making use of safe food handling and preparation recommendations, you can help reduce the risk of spreading food poisoning and keep your baby safe.


- Store baby food in plastic containers or clean ice cube trays. If using ice cube trays cover with plastic wrap if they do not have a lid

- Storing in the fridge: remember to check the temperature regularly – it should be 5°C or below. Food can be kept for up to two days in air-tight containers in the fridge

- Storing in the freezer: food can be kept frozen at -18°C for up to a month

- Label and date the containers before you put them in the fridge or freezer so you easily see what you have and when it should be used

- When storing food in the fridge or freezer remember to always keep raw and cooked foods separate to help reduce the risks of cross-contamination


- Pop out food cubes into a glass or ceramic bowl. Warm in the microwave or on the stove

- Food should be heated until it is steam hot. High-risk foods need to be heated to at least 75°C and then not allowed to drop below 60°C until they are ready to be eaten

- Cooked food that is still very hot can be cooled at room temperature until the temperature of the food drops to 60°C and then cooled to 5°C in the fridge or frozen as soon as possible

- Allow it to stand and then check its temperature using a food thermometer

- After heating baby food in the microwave, stir it thoroughly to disperse any hot spots.

- Test temperature with a clean spoon on your lip before serving to baby

- Discard leftovers – don’t refreeze


- Remove the amount of food to be used and place it in a separate dish rather than feeding directly from the container so the unused food can be covered for later use without the risk of contamination. The "double dipping" from spoon-to-mouth and back to container, introduces bacteria from your child's mouth into the rest of the food. These bacteria can continue to grow in the leftovers and may cause food poisoning

- Throw away all uneaten food from the dish. Food that has not been in contact with the child’s mouth can be stored in the refrigerator according to the guidelines above

- Don’t feed multiple meals from the same container or spoon and throw away any leftovers

Commercially prepared food

- Read the labels carefully on commercially prepared food and follow any preparation or storage instructions and check the date marking on the labels

- It’s important to always check the ‘use-by’ or ‘best-before’ dates printed on the packaging of commercial baby foods – both before you buy them and after storing them at home

- Always carefully check the packaging before use to make sure that there are no holes, tears or leaks – food pouches may look or feel ‘bloated’ and jar lids may have ‘popped’. If there is any damage, the food may have become contaminated and should not be eaten

- Manufacturers should indicate on the packaging how best to store the pre-prepared food – including how long and where to store it after you have opened it

- Listen for a popping sound when opening vacuum-sealed jars as this shows that the jar’s seal was intact and check pouch seals are intact. If the jar fails to pop when opened or a screw cap or seam on a pouch are not intact, do not use the food

- Once opened, should be stored in the fridge, preferably not in the can for a canned product

- Throw out the contents of any product if there is an unusual odour

- Remove the amount of food to be fed immediately to a separate dish rather than feeding directly from the container, can or jar using a spoon or squeeze food in pouches onto a spoon or into a dish for the child to eat. This way, unused food from the container, can (transfer cans to a clean container), pouch or in a jar can be covered or recapped and refrigerated for later use without the risk of contamination. If you choose to allow the child to suck the contents from a pouch, do not recap and store a pack the child has had in their mouth. Throw out any unused food left in a serving dish and use a fresh clean spoon for every feed

- When transporting food for feeding your baby outside the home, keep any opened jars or pouches that need to be refrigerated, chilled by using ice packs

- If using chilled or frozen commercial infant foods, only purchase such foods from established, reputable suppliers and that are within their use by dates and are appropriately stored in fridges and freezers

- If you’ve bought chilled or frozen baby food at the supermarket, refrigerate/freeze as soon as you arrive home. Allowing the temperature of such foods to rise into the temperature danger zone for extended periods can allow harmful bacteria to grow

Home prepared food

- All general rules for safe food handling are especially vital when cooking for a young child so keep hot food steaming hot, keep cold food refrigerated, cook food properly, separate raw and ready to eat food, keep kitchen and utensils clean and wash hands with soap, rinse and dry thoroughly

- If preparing food in bulk, cool it quickly by refrigerating. Don’t keep it in the fridge for more than about three days

- When you make pureed vegetables or soup for your baby, you can make enough for several meals. Use a covered ice-cube tray to freeze small quantities which you can defrost one cube at a time for a single serving

- Keep home prepared food chilled by using an ice pack when transporting for feeding outside the home. Ensure any container, spoon etc is washed thoroughly with hot soapy water, rinsed well and thoroughly dried between one use and the next

- Fill food container with just enough food for one serving. Harmful germs from a baby’s mouth can be introduced into food where it can grow and multiply even after refrigerating and reheating

- Throw away any leftovers. Do not feed any later meals from the same container or spoon

Foods to avoid

The following foods can have a higher risk of causing food poisoning and need to be handled with special care for children younger than 5 years:

- All unpasteurized foods and drinks, including raw milk and soft cheese

- Raw or partially cooked eggs or foods containing raw eggs

- Raw or undercooked meat and poultry

- Raw and undercooked fish or shellfish

- Raw sprouts

- Rockmelon

- Honey, until after the baby's first birthday because it can harbor spores of toxic bacterium that can cause botulism, a severe foodborne illness caused by a bacterium which occurs in soil

When it comes to keeping baby safe from food poisoning all the stages of their food preparation, storage and reheating are important and it always pays to be cautious – so ‘if in doubt, throw it out.’’