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Baby Food & Infant Formula Safety

Infants and young children are particularly vulnerable to foodborne illness because their immune systems are not developed enough to fight off infections.  Extra care should be taken when handling and preparing their food and formula.

The most important action that anyone can take to prevent foodborne illness in infants and children is to wash your hands.  Hands can pick up harmful bacteria from pets, raw foods, soil, and diapers,

Always wash your hands:

Other ways to keep infant food safe:

Check the packaging of commercial baby food before serving.  The following may indicate that the food is contaminated or at risk of bacterial contamination:

Infant Formula

If you are the parent or caretaker of an infant, you’ve probably heard that breast milk is the best source of nutrition for infants.  In situations in which it’s not possible to breastfeed an infant, you may choose to use a commercially prepared infant formula.

Why can’t I give my baby cow’s milk?

Cow’s milk by itself is not appropriate for infants less than 1 year old.  Cow’s milk does not have the correct balance of nutrients for infants to grow and develop normally, and it can cause problems with anemia and kidney function.

Raw milk is never appropriate for infants.  Raw milk can harbor dangerous microorganisms, such as Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria, that can pose serious health risks.

But isn’t formula made from cow’s milk?

Most infant formula is made with cow’s milk, but it has been modified and supplemented with additional nutrients.  As a result, the formula is more nutritious and easier for the baby to digest than cow’s milk.  Other formula options include soy-based formulas and hypoallergenic (or protein hydrolysate and amino acid-based) formulas.  Special formulas are available for babies who are premature or have other health problems.

How does the government regulate infant formula?

The FDA does not approve infant formulas before they can be marketed.  All formulas marketed in the US, however, must be federal nutrient requirements.  The FDA also monitors infant formula, which means that it inspects facilities that manufacture formula and analyzes samples.

What can I do to make sure that formula is safe?

Here are a few basic steps that can be followed to ensure that formula is safe from bacteria that can cause illness: