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How to prepare baby food safely?

Why is food hygiene important?
Cleanliness and food freshness is important once your baby starts to eat solid food. This is because babies' immune systems are less developed than adults'. Their tummies are vulnerable to bugs and infections.

The Department of Health says it's best to give your baby solid foods at six months. If you do choose to start your baby on solids before then, you should take extra care. Sterilise feeding spoons until your baby is six months old and wash your baby's bowls and feeding equipment in a dishwasher or very hot water. Use a clean tea towel or paper towels to dry them.
How clean do I need to be?
You don't need to create a kitchen that's a totally sterile environment. There's even evidence that our houses are too clean these days! However, it makes sense to follow these basic hygeine tips:

- Wash your hands before you start to prepare meals for your baby.
- Wash highchairs, bibs and eating areas in hot, soapy water.
- If your baby is eating finger foods or eating with his hands, wash his hands before he eats his meals.
- Change kitchen cloths and tea towels frequently.
How can I serve food safely?
When reheating baby food, make sure it is piping hot throughout. You should be able to see steam coming out. Let it cool down before you give it to your baby. Test a tiny bit of food on the inside of your wrist to see if it is a comfortable temperature before giving it to him.

Also, remember these tips:

- If you're using a microwave to heat up food, stir it well to avoid hotspots.
- Don't reheat your baby's food more than once.
- Cook eggs until the yolk and white are solid.
- Cook meats until they are no longer pink in the middle.
- If food is frozen, defrost it thoroughly before you cook it, unless the food label says otherwise. Never refreeze something that has been defrosted.

How can I store food safely?
Follow these tips to make sure you store your baby's food safely:

- If you're making batches of your baby's food in advance, cool them quickly and store them in the fridge. Freeze anything that won't be used within 24 hours.
- If your baby leaves any food in his bowl after a meal, throw it away. Food that has been in contact with saliva contains bacteria that will multiply if kept.
- Check the best-before and use-by dates on food that you give to your baby. If you have uneaten food left in a jar, you can keep it in the fridge for 24 hours after it's been opened. However, throw away leftovers that have been heated up once already and jars you have fed your baby from.
- Check the temperature of your fridge. It should be between zero degrees C and five degrees C. Buy a fridge thermometer from a hardware shop if you haven't got one.

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