Food Safety

Woman cooking

Welcome to the Missouri WIC Participant Nutrition Education website. If you are a WIC participant, please enter your name and State ID number.  Type the Household ID if more than one family member is a participant.

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By the end of this session you will be able to:

  • Identify three common symptoms of food borne illnesses.
  • Name two ways to stop the spread of bacteria in the kitchen.
  • State that bacteria grows rapidly in room temperature.
  • Describe signs of thoroughly cooked meat, poultry, and fish.
  • Describe safe ways to thaw meat, poultry, and fish
  • Describe safe microwave cooking of infant foods.
  • Identify clean and safe water to use when mixing baby formula.
  • Identify two safety measures that can be taken to prevent bacterial growth in baby formula and baby jar foods.

activity 1

1. Have you ever gotten sick from food before? Name three symptoms a person might experience from "food poisoning".

baby eating baby food

So, what is "food poisoning" or food borne illness?
Why should we be concerned about it?

Food borne illness is when you get sick from food contaminated by harmful bacteria (germs) and molds. Some common symptoms of food borne illnesses are nausea (upset stomach), diarrhea, and vomiting. It can feel like you have a bad flu. If you have ever had food poisoning, you know how terrible it feels! Now, imagine if you were a small child. Children do not have strong immune systems like adults do and therefore it is harder for them to fight infection. This is why it is especially important to protect your children from these harmful bacteria. This lesson will explain how you can prevent food borne illnesses to keep you and your child from becoming ill.

activity 2

* 1. Bacteria grows the quickest in foods left out at room temperature.

Bacteria grows rapidly in foods left out at Room Temperature.

  • Cold slows (but does not stop or kill) the growth of most harmful bacteria.
    • So keep cold foods in the refrigerator or freezer.
      • Your refrigerator should be set at 33 - 41 degrees farenheight.
      • In the refrigerator keep raw meats, fish, and poultry on a plate and on the bottom shelf to keep their juices off other foods - bacteria can spread to other foods, this is called cross contamination.
Have you ever seen mold on cheese or bread?  We can see  some molds, however, most of the time we cannot see, smell, or taste the bacteria that causes food borne illnesses!
  • Throw away moldy foods such as bread, cornmeal, fruit, jam, and soft cheeses such as cottage cheese - you cannot safely remove molds from these foods.
  • You can cut mold off hard cheeses such as cheddar - be sure to cut off and discard mold plus at least 1/2 inch all around the moldy area.

Make sure you cook your meat thoroughly to kill the existing bacteria!!

  • Cook all meat, poultry, and fish until their juices run clear and there is no pink in the center.
  • Cook poultry until there is no red around the bones (to prevent salmonellae poisoning).
  • NOTE: In the United States it is conservatively estimated that 70% of the chicken we buy in the grocery store is already infected with salmonellae!!!

  • Ground meats are especially important to cook thoroughly.
  • Fish should flake easily.
  • It is best to cook eggs until the yolk is not runny.
  • No raw eggs in dressings!

activity 3

* Choose the best answer. The safest way to thaw frozen food is:


  • Freezing stops bacteria from growing, but does not kill it.  Once food is thawed, bacteria will begin to grow again.
  • Thaw meat, poultry, and fish in the refrigerator
  • If they are thawed at room temperature, bacteria will begin to grow on the warmer outside of the meat before the inside is even thawed.

activity 4

1. Name two ways to stop the spread of bacteria in your kitchen.

    washing hands
  • WASHING YOUR HANDS is the most important thing you can do to stop the spread of bacteria and prevent food borne illnesses.
  • Wash your hands before preparing or eating any food.
  • Use hot, soapy water.

  • Be sure counter tops and utensils are clean before using them to prepare food.
  • After preparing food, especially raw meat, fish, and poultry, wash your hands, counter tops, utensils, cutting board, and anything else that may have gotten dirty.
  • Use hot, soapy water and scrub thoroughly.

  • Do NOT use wooden cutting boards.  They are porous and bacteria can get trapped and stay on the board.
  • Bacteria from raw meat juices can get onto other foods if hands and food preparation equipment are not washed thoroughly.
  • These bacteria can make you sick!
  • Sanitize/change your kitchen towel/sponge often!

What kind of water is safe to use when preparing my baby's formula?

  • When mixing formula use room temperature water.
  • Always refrigerate the mixed formula!
  • Make sure the water is clean and safe.
  • If you use well water, make sure you boil it!
  • Boil it, let it cool, then use it to make the formula.
  • Bottled water is okay to use.

activity 5

* Choose the best answer. After opening up a jar of baby food, how long will it stay safe to eat in your refrigerator?


Here Are Some Safety Measures That Can Be Taken To Prevent Bacterial Growth In Baby Formula and Jars of Baby Food:

  • Bacteria grow FAST in baby formula.
    • Never let opened cans of concentrated formula sit out at room temperature. Keep them in the refrigerator!
  • You can keep mixed formula and opened jars of baby food for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.
  • Before refrigerating leftovers, screw the lids on tightly.
  • Saliva will promote bacteria growth in food. NEVER feed your baby directly from the jar if you plan to refrigerate any leftovers because the baby's saliva will have gotten into it from the spoon.
  • Take the desired amount of food out of the jar and put it into a bowl. Throw away anything left in the bowl.
  • Always check the indented circle on the lid of baby food jars. baby bottle
    • This vacuum button should be inverted to indicate that the jar has been properly sealed. When you open the jar, the button should pop up with a suction releasing noise.
  • Always check the expiration date stamped on jar lids or labels.

Do You Use The Microwave To Heat Your Baby's Food?

  • Don't warm your baby's bottle in the microwave! The bottle may feel cool, but the milk may be hot enough to burn your baby's mouth and throat.
  • Some baby food labels warn not to heat them in the microwave. These are usually dinners with lots of meat or eggs in them.
    • These food may get "hot spots" that can splatter when taken out of the microwave - you or your baby could get burned!
  • If you decide to heat other baby foods in the microwave:
    • Always take the lid off - jars will explode if the lid is left on while heating.
    • Heat food on medium or low settings.
    • Stop and stir food several times so it will heat evenly. Only heat until it is warm.
    • After heating, stir the food and let it stand for one minute. Taste the food before giving it to your baby.

activity 6

* Choose the best answer. It is important to stir your baby's food several times when warming it in the microwave because:


Let's Look At Storage Times

Butter 1-2 weeks Butter 6 - 9 months
Cottage cheese 5 days Cottage cheese 3 months
Yellow cheese 3 - 4 weeks Yellow cheese 6 weeks
Processed cheese 3 - 4 weeks Processed cheese 4 months
Eggs 2 - 3 weeks Eggs Don't freeze
Leftovers (meat) 3 - 4 days Leftovers (meat) 2 - 3 months
Margarine 4 - 6 months Margarine 1 year
Chicken (raw) 1 - 2 days Chicken (raw) 9 - 12 months
Lunch meats 3 - 5 days Lunch meats 1 - 2 months
Fish (raw) 1 day Fish (raw) 2 - 3 months
Hamburger/stew meat 1 - 2 days Hamburger/stew meat 3 - 4 months
Hot dogs 1 - 2 weeks Hot dogs 1 - 2 months
Baby formula & opened jars of baby food 24 hours Baby formula & opened jars of baby food Don't freeze
Homemade baby food 3 days Homemade baby food 1 month
Breastmilk 3 - 4 days Breastmilk 3 months

Click here to learn about handling fruits and vegetables safely.

Review: List three changes you will make and hopefully prevent food borne illness in your home.

Your breastmilk is always just the right temperature and free from ALL contaminants!!

For more information on food safety, pleases click on the following resources:

  1. Partnership for Food Safety Education (PFSE) - Fight Bac! Safe Food Handling and Food Safety Information
  2. Refrigeration & Food Safety


 * Where are you taking today's lesson?

You have completed the class on “Food Safety”. If you have any questions or comments, please contact your LWP nutritionist who will be glad to answer any of your questions. 

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