U.S. Food and Drug Administration / Center for Food Safety and
 Applied Nutrition / May 1999
Grandmother Feeding Baby - (c) www.eyewire.com
Seniors and
Food Safety

Preventing Foodborne Illness

What is Foodborne Illness?
Why are Seniors At-Risk for Foodborne Illness?
What's a Senior to Eat?
To Market, To Market
Four Simple Steps to Preparing Food at Home
Eating Out & Bringing Food Home
Taking Care of Infants and Young Children
Can Your Kitchen Pass the Food Safety Test?

When Grandparents Take Care of Grandchildren:
What You Need to Know About Food Safety and Young Children

You've probably seen the T-shirts that read: "If I'd known how much fun it is to have grandchildren, I would have had them first." Well, it is fun when grandchildren come to visit, or if you regularly lend a hand with their care. But as you know, the care and feeding of grandchildren is also a major responsibility.

Many of the feeding practices you probably used with your own children are no longer advocated for today's infants and toddlers. So let's take a look at the food safety implications of feeding special new person in your life.

The Latest, Safest Information on Feeding Infants and Young Children

Keep It Clean—Always begin formula and food preparation by washing your hands. According to a Penn State University study of mothers with infants less than 4 months old,

  • 32% said they don't wash their hands after changing their baby's diaper;
  • about 15% said they don't wash their hands after they went to the bathroom;
  • about 10% don't wash their hands after handling raw meat;
  • about 41% don't wash their hands after petting animals; and
  • about 5% didn't wash their hands after gardening or working with soil.

Did you know that not washing hands could result in infant diarrhea because: Bacteria can grow

  • on diapers;
  • in your feces and urine;
  • in raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs;
  • on animals like dogs, cats, turtles, snakes and birds; and
  • in soil and water.

Handling Baby's Food Safely

grandpa feeding baby Harmful bacteria from a baby's mouth can be introduced into food or bottles where it can grow and multiply even after refrigeration and reheating. If the baby does not finish a bottle, do not put it back in the refrigerator for another time.

Likewise, do not feed a baby from a jar of baby food and put it back in the refrigerator for another time. Saliva on the spoon contaminates the remaining food.


NOTE: Don't leave baby food solids or liquids out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.

  Refrigerator   Freezer

breast milk
5 days 3 to 4 months
Formula 2 days not recommended
Whole milk 5 days 3 months
evaporated milk
3 to 5 days not recommended
  1. For shelf storage of unopened cans of formula, observe "Use by" dates printed on containers. Store evaporated milk up to 12 months.
  2. Heat liquid in disposable bottles in hot tap water, not in the microwave.
  3. If heating glass or hard plastic bottles in the microwave, remove the cap and nipple first.
  4. Shake bottle before testing the temperature on top of your hand.
  5. Discard any unused milk left in a bottle.




SOLIDS - opened or freshly made
Strained fruits
and vegetables
2 to 3 days 6 to 8 months
Strained meats
and eggs
1 day 1 to 2 months
1 to 2 days 1 to 2 months
baby foods
1 to 2 days 3 to 4 months
  1. Observe "Use by" date for shelf storage of unopened jars.
  2. Check to see that the safety button in lid is down. If the jar lid does not "pop" when opened or is not sealed safely, do not use.
  3. Do not heat meats, meat sticks, eggs or jars of food in the microwave.
  4. Transfer food from jars to bowls or heating dish. For 4 ounces of food, microwave on high 15 seconds; stir and let stand 30 seconds.
  5. Stir and test the temperature of the foods before feeding baby.
  6. Don't feed a baby from the jar.

Perishable items like milk, formula or food left out of the refrigerator or without a cold source for more than 2 hours should not be used.

When traveling with baby,

  • transport bottles and food in an insulated cooler.
    • Place the ice chest in the passenger compartment of the car. It's cooler than in the trunk.
    • Use frozen gel packs to keep food or bottles cold on long outings.

  • Do not keep bottles or food in the same bag with dirty diapers.

Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for preparing bottles before filling with formula or milk. Observe "Use-by" dates on formula cans. See baby food safe storage chart for detailed information. Don't feed a baby anything kept longer.

Those interested in health foods may consider using honey as a sweetener to entice babies to drink water from a bottle. Honey is not safe for children less than a year old. It can contain the botulinum organism that could cause illness or death. Raw or unpasteurized milk should not be served to infants and children.

If making homemade baby food, use a brush to clean areas around the blender blades or food processor parts. Old food particles can harbor harmful bacteria that may contaminate other foods.

Use detergent and hot water to wash and rinse all utensils (including the can opener) which come in contact with baby's foods.

If using commercial baby foods, check to see if the safety button on the lid is down. If the jar lid doesn't "pop" when opened, do not use. Discard jars with chipped glass or rusty lids.

To freeze homemade baby food, put the mixture in an ice cube tray. Cover with heavy-duty plastic wrap until the food is frozen. Then pop food cubes into a freezer bag or airtight container and date it. Store up to 3 months. One cube equals one serving.

Small jars can also be used for freezing. Leave about ½ inch of space at the top because food expands when frozen.

Next: Can Your Kitchen Pass the Food Safety Test?
running faucet Clean separate cutting boards for meats and vegetables Separate thermometer Cook refrigerator Chill

FDA/Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, May 1999
Developed in cooperation with AARP
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