Food safety for children under age 5

Children are more susceptible to foodborne illness.

Everyone is at risk for getting a foodborne illness. Young children under age 5 are at greater risk for experiencing a more serious illness, or even death if they come in contact with one of the strains of bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. The reason being, their immune systems aren’t fully developed. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also reports that compared with other age groups, children under age 5 have the highest incidence of several types of foodborne infections.

Symptoms of foodborne illness vary, but usually include vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Fever could also be a symptom. There are many types of bacteria and toxins that can cause illness, including: Salmonella, Shigella, E. coli, Listeria, botulism and Campylobacter. Research has shown that 15 percent of children under age 5 who have had E.coli develop hemolytic syndrome (HUS) and six percent of the general population with E. coli develop HUS. HUS can cause damage to the liver, kidneys and pancreas and it can be fatal.

What are high risk foods for young children? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that foods that are raw or undercooked, including: meat, poultry and eggs, unpasteurized milk or juice, including cider, and any raw or undercooked seafood or oysters. Baby food can also become unsafe if it is mishandled. Follow these tips from to keep your infant and toddler food safe from

Solid Foods Opened or Freshly Made

Refrigerator Storage Guide

Freezer Storage Guide

Strained fruits and vegetables

2 to 3 days

6 to 8 months

Strained meats and eggs

1 day

1 to 2 months

Meat/vegetable combinations

1 to 2 days

1 to 2 months

Homemade baby foods

1 to 2 days

1 to 2 months

Keep in mind that if you are feeding your little one from the container or jar, you should not re-serve or re-heat that food; bacteria from the child’s mouth has been mixed with the remaining food’s protein and can create an environment for pathogens to grow.

Michigan State University Extension suggests you remember the Four steps to keeping food safe: Clean, separate, cook and chill. Following these steps will lessen the chances of foodborne illnesses for your family.

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