Safely Storing Baby Food is so important, regardless if you are making your own or using store-bought. Learn how to safely store, refrigerate, freeze and reheat your baby's food in this handy guide.
Why Care is Needed When Storing Baby Food.
Babies digestive and immune systems are immature and they do not have the same immunity as older children and adults. For this reason, it is imperative that you pay close attention to food safety and hygiene when preparing and storing baby food.
Foodborne illnesses are quite common, estimated to affect 4.1 million Australians each year (1). The symptoms are unpleasant and for some groups with low immunity, such as children under 5, they can be quite serious. (1)
However, good food safety and hygiene practices will help prevent this from happening.
Storing Store-Bought Baby Food
The majority of store-bought baby food is shelf-stable until opening. If you buy from the ambient section you can store the baby food, at room temperature, until the expiration date. Do not use after this date.
When opening, it is important to check that the product is properly sealed and the packaging is not damaged. In pouches make sure the plastic cap seal is not broken and if opening jars listen for a popping sound, which means it has been sealed properly and is safe to eat. If this is not the case then do not use.
Once open, the baby food is no longer shelf-stable and will need to be refrigerated for storing. Replace the lid and store in the refrigerator for 1 - 2 days. (products with meats and poultry up to one day and fruit/vegetables two days). Any food leftover after this time should be thrown away.
If you wish to store leftovers then do not feed your baby straight out of the jar or allow them to suck from the pouch. Instead, transfer a small amount of the baby food to a separate bowl/container (or squeeze from the pouch onto spoon).
"Double Dipping" from the spoon-to mouth- to container can introduce bacteria from your baby's saliva which can grow and may cause food poisoning. Throw away any leftover food from a bowl/container you have been using to feed your baby.
Storing Homemade Baby Food
As a baby only eats tiny amounts, especially in the early stages of their feeding journey, it saves time to make up larger quantities of baby food and store for future meals.
After cooking it is important to cool the food as quickly as possible. Simply putting your hot food in the fridge may not be enough to cool it down quickly enough. Instead try one of the following
- Place it in an airtight container and hold it under a cold running tap. Stir it from time to time so it cools consistently all the way through
- Dividing into smaller portions
- Transfer to a larger or pre-chilled container and spreading the food out.
Never allow the food to sit out too long, it should be chilled and refrigerated within 1-2 hours, depending on the room temperature.
Leftover baby food can be refrigerated and used within 1- 2 days. (products with meats /poultry/ rice up to one day and fruit/vegetables two days)
If there is any food left in your baby's bowl after a meal, throw it away. Food that has been in contact with saliva contains bacteria that will multiply if left.
You should never re-freeze baby food that has already been frozen and for that reason, it is best to divide the cooled food into smaller containers for freezing. A flexible ice-cube tray works great for this
- Fill each ice-cube section almost to the top with the baby food.
- Cover (with a lid or some wrap) and freeze until frozen.
- Clearly label and date a freezer bag/container.
- Once the ice cubes are fully frozen, quickly pop them all out and place into the labelled bag/container
- Return to the freezer.
Properly frozen, the food can be stored in the freezer for two months.
Thawing and Re-heating Baby Food
- The best way to defrost purees it to refrigerate overnight and use within 24 hours. Never defrost on the countertop.
- You can also reheat from frozen.
- Reheat baby food until piping hot to kill off bacteria. Allow to cool and always test the temperature of the food before giving your baby.
- You can reheat on the stovetop or microwave. Make sure to continually stir the food to ensure it is properly heated and to get rid of hot spots.
- Only re-heat once. Leftover baby food, that has been reheated should be discarded.
Summary of Important Safety Tips
- Always check expiry dates on packaged baby food and make sure packaging is not damaged/tampered.
- Never feed a baby straight from a jar/pouch. Instead, transfer a small amount to a separate container.
- If there is any food left in your baby's bowl after a meal, throw it away.
- Cool freshly cooked baby food as quickly as possible.
- Freeze purees, as soon as there are cool, in small portions.
- Never re-freeze meals that have already been frozen.
- Thaw frozen food in the refrigerator and use within 24 hours.
- When reheating food, make sure it is piping hot throughout and let it cool before giving your baby.
- Do not re-heat food more than once.
- NSW Government Food Authority, Food Poisoning, Viewed 10th October 2020, <https://www.foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/consumer/food-poisoning>
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