USDA Repeats Parental Guidance On Protecting Children From Food Poisoning

by Kim Boateng Posted on May 23rd, 2018

Washington, D.C., USA: “Children are at high risk for food poisoning because their immune systems are still developing. Parents, learn more on how to protect them here”, The U.S. Department of Agriculture, USDA, also known as the Agriculture Department said on Tuesday.

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, the USDA said as it reiterated it’s food safety concerns for children under five. 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 Safety Concerns for Children Under Five

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, USDA said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 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.

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. Visit our E. coli page to learn more about signs and 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

Learn about safety tips for those at increased risk of foodborne illness. 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)


Campylobacter is one of the most common causes of food poisoning in the United States. The vast majority of cases occur as isolated events, not as part of recognized outbreaks.

Sources of Campylobacter Raw and undercooked poultry, unpasteurized milk, contaminated water.
Campylobacter Incubation Period 2-5 days
Symptoms of Campylobacter Diarrhea, cramps, fever, and vomiting; diarrhea may be bloody.
Duration of Campylobacter Illness 2-10 days
What Do I Do? Drink plenty of fluids and get rest. If you cannot drink enough fluids to prevent dehydration or if your symptoms are severe, call your doctor. In more severe cases, certain antibiotics can be used and can shorten the duration of symptoms if given early in the illness.
How Do I Prevent Campylobacter? Always cook meat, especially poultry, to safe minimum temperatures.
Keep raw meat, especially poultry, separate from other foods.
Do not drink raw or unpasteurized milk.

E. coli

E. coli is the name of a type of bacteria that lives in your intestines and in the intestines of animals. Although most types of E. coli are harmless, some types can make you sick.

The worst type of E. coli, known as E. coli O157:H7, causes bloody diarrhea and can sometimes cause kidney failure and even death. E. coli O157:H7 makes a toxin called Shiga toxin and is known as a Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC). There are many other types of STEC, and some can make you just as sick as E. coli O157:H7.

One severe complication associated with E. coli infection is hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). The infection produces toxic substances that destroy red blood cells, causing kidney injury. HUS can require intensive care, kidney dialysis, and transfusions.

Sources of E. coli Contaminated food, especially undercooked ground beef, unpasteurized (raw) milk and juice, soft cheeses made from raw milk, and raw fruits and vegetables (such as sprouts)
Contaminated water, including drinking untreated water and swimming in contaminated water
Animals and their environment: particularly cows, sheep, and goats. If you don’t wash your hands carefully after touching an animal or its environment, you could get an E. coli infection
Feces of infected people
E. coli Incubation Period 1-10 days
Symptoms of E. coli Severe diarrhea that is often bloody, severe abdominal pain, and vomiting. Usually, little or no fever is present.
Symptoms of HUS include decreased urine production, dark or tea-colored urine, and facial pallor.
Duration of E. coli Illness 5-10 days. Most people will be better in 6-8 days.
If HUS develops, it usually occurs after about 1 week.
What Do I Do? Drink plenty of fluids and get rest. If you cannot drink enough fluids to prevent dehydration or if your symptoms are severe (including blood in your stools or severe abdominal pain), call your doctor. Antibiotics should not be used to treat this infection.
How Can I Prevent E. coli? Avoid eating high-risk foods, especially undercooked ground beef, unpasteurized milk or juice, soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk, or alfalfa sprouts.
Use a food thermometer to make sure that ground beef has reached a safe internal temperature of 160° F.
Wash hands before preparing food, after diapering infants, and after contact with cows, sheep, or goats, their food or treats, or their living environment .


Salmonella, the name of a group of bacteria, is one of the most common causes of food poisoning in the United States. Usually, symptoms last 4-7 days and most people get better without treatment. But, Salmonella can cause more serious illness in older adults, infants, and persons with chronic diseases. Salmonella is killed by cooking and pasteurization.

Sources of Salmonella Food: Contaminated eggs, poultry, meat, unpasteurized milk or juice, cheese, contaminated raw fruits and vegetables (alfalfa sprouts, melons), spices, and nuts
Animals and their environment: Particularly reptiles (snakes, turtles, lizards), amphibians (frogs), birds (baby chicks) and pet food and treats.
Salmonella Incubation Period 12-72 hours
Symptoms of Salmonella Diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, vomiting
Duration of Salmonella Illness 4-7 days
What Do I Do? Drink plenty of fluids and get rest. If you cannot drink enough fluids to prevent dehydration or if your symptoms are severe, call your doctor. Antibiotics may be necessary if the infection spreads from the intestines to the blood stream.
How Can I Prevent Salmonella? Avoid eating high-risk foods, including raw or lightly cooked eggs, undercooked ground beef or poultry, and unpasteurized milk
Keep food properly refrigerated before cooking.
Clean hands with soap and warm water before handling food. Clean surfaces before preparing food on them.
Separate cooked foods from ready-to-eat foods. Do not use utensils on cooked foods that were previously used on raw foods and do not place cooked foods on plates where raw foods once were unless it has been cleaned thoroughly.
Cook foods to a safe internal temperature. Use a meat thermometer to make sure foods are cooked to a safe temperature.
Chill foods promptly after serving and when transporting from one place to another.
Wash your hand after contact with animals, their food or treats, or their living environment.


Shigellosis is an infectious disease caused by Shigella. The Shigella germ is a family of bacteria that can cause diarrhea in humans. People with shigellosis shed the bacteria in their feces. The bacteria can spread from an infected person to contaminate water or food, or directly to another person. Getting just a little bit of the Shigella bacteria into your mouth is enough to cause symptoms.

The illness is most commonly seen in child-care settings and schools. Shigellosis is a cause of traveler’s diarrhea, from contaminated food and water in developing countries.

Sources of Shigella Contaminated food or water, or contact with an infected person. Foods most often associated with Shigellaoutbreaks are salads and sandwiches that involve a lot of hand contact in their preparation, and raw vegetables contaminated in the field.
Shigella Incubation Period 1 -7 days (usually 1-3 days)
Symptoms of Shigella Sudden abdominal cramping, fever, diarrhea that may be bloody or contains mucus, nausea and vomiting
Duration of Shigella Illness 2-7 days
Who’s at Risk for Shigella Illness? Children, especially toddlers aged 2-4
What Do I Do? Drink plenty of fluids and get rest. Stay home from school or work to avoid spreading the bacteria to others. If you cannot drink enough fluids to prevent dehydration, call your doctor.
How Do I Prevent Shigella Illness? Wash hands with soap carefully and frequently, especially after going to the bathroom, after changing diapers, and before preparing foods or beverages.
Dispose of soiled diapers properly
Disinfect diaper changing areas after using them.
Keep children with diarrhea out of child care settings while they are ill.
Supervise handwashing of toddlers and small children after they use the toilet.
Do not prepare food for others while ill with diarrhea
Avoid swallowing water from ponds, lakes, or untreated pools.
When traveling in developing countries, drink only treated or boiled water, and eat only cooked hot foods or fruits you peel yourself.

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