Foodborne illness or food poisoning is the result of eating toxic or spoilt food contaminated by bacteria, viruses or parasites. Extremely common signs of food poisoning include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, stomach pain, fever and chills. These symptoms manifest themselves as early as 60 minutes after consuming the food or might even take days or weeks to show up. While anyone can become victims of food poisoning, children under the age of five are at a greater risk for foodborne illness and related health complications because:
- Their immune system is still developing and cannot fight off infections as good as adults
- Young kids produce less stomach acid that kills harmful bacteria which makes them even more prone to diseases and illnesses
Young children subjected to food poisoning experience health complications that can require hospitalization. Dehydration (too much fluid loss on a kid’s body that is too small), hemolytic uremic syndrome (kidney failure and blood disorder that can prove fatal) and infant botulism (temporary paralysis mostly caused due to honey fed to babies younger than 1 year) are some of the complications that require immediate attention.
We might advise parents to stay away from certain foods, but it is better to provide healthy alternative options too for better nutrition. Find below the list of foods to avoid and also the list of safer alternatives for such foods:
|Raw or unpasteurized milk||Pasteurized milk|
|Feeding honey to infants under 1 year old||Feed honey after your child is one year old|
|Raw egg/products containing raw eggs such as certain salad dressings, cookie dough, cake batter, sauces and drinks||Eggs/egg-based dishes that are cooked to a safe internal temperature (74°C)|
|Raw/undercooked meat or poultry||Fully cooked meat and poultry to its safe internal temperature|
|Raw oysters, clams and mussels. Raw seafood||Cook oysters, clams and mussels until the shell opens|
|Raw sprouts||Thoroughly cooked sprouts|
|Unpasteurized fruit juice and cider||Pasteurized fruit juice|
Protect Your Child From the Food Bug
Babies and infants are vulnerable to the bacteria causing food poisoning and the way we prepare or serve food must not pave way for these bacteria. Ensure to:
- Wash your hands before and after preparing food, especially after touching raw meat, chicken and eggs
- Teach your kids to wash hands after touching pets and going to the toilet and before eating food
- Keep pets away from the cooking area while preparing or eating food
- Keep cooking surface clean, wash all bowls and spoons used for cooking in hot soapy water and take care that chopping boards and utensils are always clean
- Refrigerate raw meats separately inside clean covered containers at the bottom-most rack to avoid drips from falling over other foods
- Cook any food served to the baby thoroughly and cool it until it becomes lukewarm before feeding your kid
- Never reuse food half eaten by your child
- Wash and peel fruits and vegetables such as apples and carrots
- Never feed or allow kids to eat or drink anything while they are sitting on the potty
- Never feed kids straight from the jar as this introduces bacteria from the baby’s mouth to the spoon and into the food. The bacteria could grow in the leftovers and result in food poisoning. Rather, take a small portion out of the jar and put it onto a small feeding dish. Feed your baby from this dish using a spoon and if the child leaves some food, don’t put it back onto the jar but throw it out.
- While out for shopping, buy cold/frozen food at the end of your shopping trip. Also ensure to use different plastic bags to store different raw foods, refrigerate the meat/poultry immediately after going home and wash your reusable grocery bags often.
- Avoid using sponges as it is almost impossible to keep them bacteria-free
Before preparing food for kids under the age of five always follow these 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 temperature using a food thermometer. Learn the basics of using a food thermometer at www.firsteatright.com.
Chill: Chill raw meat/poultry and cooked leftovers within 2 hours
Young kids drink breast/formula milk and feeding bottles made of hard plastic/glass must be maintained properly. You can either heat the bottle in hot running water for 1-2 minutes or heat a pan of water and immerse the bottle until it’s warm. Also, never heat breast milk or infant formula in the microwave as microwaves heat baby’s milk and food unevenly which can injure a baby’s mouth and throat.