Food Safety Concerns for Young Children

Children are at high risk for food poisoning because their immune systems are still developing. Parents, learn more on how to protect your family from foodborne illness with these tips.

Children under the age of five are at an increased risk for foodborne illness and related health complications because their immune systems are still developing.  Young children with developing immune systems cannot fight off infections as well as adults can.  Additionally, young children produce less stomach acid that kills harmful bacteria, making it easier for them to get sick.

Food poisoning can be particularly dangerous for young children because with food poisoning often comes diarrhea.  Since children’s bodies are small, they can quickly lose a lot of body fluid causing dehydration.  Other symptoms of foodborne illness include nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and cramps, and fever and chills.

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According to the CDC, children younger than five have the highest incidence rates of any age group of Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, E.Coli 0157, E. Coli non-0157, Salmonella, Shigella, and Yersinia infection.

As the data shows, food safety is particularly important for young children. In addition to hand washing and good hygiene, their food safety is tightly linked to the food safety behaviors of their parents and caregivers.

Infographic – Food Safety for Children


Pathogen Number Culture Confirmed Cases in under 5 year olds in 2013 Incidence per 100,000 in the population under 5 years old in 2013
Campylobacter 727 24.34
Cryptosporidium 136 4.55
E. coli 0157 124 4.15
E. coli non-0157 124 4.15
Salmonella 1,842 61.67
Shigella 586 19.62
Yersinia 40 1.34

Watch Out for E. coli
In children under five years old, E. coli has high likelihood to turn into Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS): a severe E. coli complication that can lead to liver failure and death. Normally 6% of people with E. coli O157 contract HUS, but 15% of children under the age of five develop the condition.  Symptoms of HUS are decreased urine production, dark or tea-colored urine, and a pale face. These symptoms usually develop after about one week of E. coli symptoms.

About Baby Food

Safe Storage of Solid Baby Food

SOLIDS – opened or freshly made Refrigerator Freezer
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

Safe Microwaving of Solid Foods
Studies show that the when baby food is microwaved in a jar it often heats unevenly. The hottest places are in the center of the foods. The coolest places are next to the glass sides, which could lead you to believe that the food is not too hot. Follow these precautions when microwaving baby’s food.

  • Don’t microwave baby foods in the jar. Instead, transfer the food to a dish before microwaving it. This way the food can be stirred and taste-tested for temperature.
  • Microwave four ounces of solid food in a dish for about 15 seconds on high power. Always stir, let stand 30 seconds, and taste-test before feeding. Food that’s “baby-ready” should taste or feel lukewarm.
  • Don’t heat baby-food meats, meat sticks or eggs in the microwave. Use the stovetop instead. These foods have a high fat content, and since microwaves heat fats faster than other substances, these foods can cause splattering and overheating.

Heating Breast Milk or Formula
Two ways to heat bottles with disposable inserts or hard plastic, and glass bottles:

  1. In Hot Tap Water
    Place bottle under hot, running tap water until the desired temperature is reached. This should take one-to-two minutes.
  2. On the Stove
    Heat water in a pan. Remove the pan from the heat and set the bottle in it until it’s warm.

When heating baby’s milk, always shake the liquid to even out the temperature and test on top of your hand – not the wrist (this is one of the areas least sensitive to heat) – before feeding. Milk that’s “baby-ready” should feel lukewarm.

Heating breast milk or infant formula in the microwave is not recommended. Studies have shown that microwaves heat baby’s milk and food unevenly. This results in “hot spots” that can scald a baby’s mouth and throat.

More You Can Do
If you prepare food for children under the age of five you should always follow the four steps:

  • Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often
  • Separate: Separate raw meat and poultry from ready-to-eat foods
  • Cook: Cook food to the right temperatures
  • Chill: Chill raw meat and poultry as well as cooked leftovers promptly (within 2 hours)

Reference: – Food Safety Concerns for Children Under Five