Food Safety for Young Children

All parents and caregivers have concerns about young children and their risk of food poisoning or choking. Here are some food safety guidelines to help keep your young child safer.

Young children and foodborne illness

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children younger than 5 years old are at higher risk of foodborne illness, with greater rates of infection and serious complications.

When preparing or cooking food, avoid unpasteurized foods and beverages, raw or partially cooked eggs, raw or undercooked meat, poultry, shellfish, and fish, and raw sprouts. Avoid honey until your child’s first birthday due to higher risk of botulism.

Ensure your hands, cooking utensils, and food preparation surfaces are washed and clean, and wash fruits and vegetables well. Serve hot foods right away (you can use an ice cube to cool the food slightly if it is too hot for your child to eat), and refrigerate any uneaten food within two hours or less.

Young children and choking risk

To help your child minimize their risk or choking, do not offer the following food to children younger than 4 years old:

  • Sticky foods such as gum, chunky peanut butter (smooth nut butters should be spread as a thin layer), caramel, marshmallows, jelly beans, and dried fruit.
  • Small, firm foods such as popcorn, chips, pretzels, whole cherry tomatoes, kernels of corn, and raw vegetable chunks. Cooked, cut-up vegetables are a safer option.
  • Slippery foods such as grapes, cherries, lollipops, cough drops, and large chunks of meat.

To further minimize the risk of choking, offer your young child cut-up finger foods and foods that are cooked and cut into small pieces. Ensure your child doesn’t run or play while eating, and encourage them to chew well and eat slowly. Above all, ensure your child is under your supervision while eating.