Many parents who want to make healthy food choices are concerned with additives, processing, allergens and chemicals in the food they give their children.
Children are at greater risk from developing foodborne illness from foods contaminated by bacteria, such as salmonella, E. coli, listeria and Campylobacter bacteria. Therefore, it is especially important to be sure the food they are eating and drinking is free from potential sources of bacteria.
Easy to say, but how is a parent to do that?
Avoiding Foodborne Illness from Contamination
Foods can become contaminated in a variety of ways, including poor food handling at home, unsafe handling and storage along the transportation chain from farm to retail outlets, in processing and packaging, or in the fields by soils, pesticides, or during harvesting.
Some foods are contaminated at the source, such as during milking, or from the skins of fruits during harvest.
Because we don’t normally heat milk or juice before serving, the best way to decrease bacteria present is through pasteurization.
Unpasteurized milk and juice are products that have not been treated using heat (pasteurization) to rid them of the bacteria and parasites contained in the product. Such milk and juice that is sold in the US is mandated to carry a warning label stating it is unpasteurized.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that only pasteurized juice and milk are given to children due to the health concerns of foodborne illness.
Pasteurizing juice may lower some of the nutrients found in the juice, including Vitamin C, but most of the nutritional content remains intact.
So pasteurization makes milk and juice safer, but you might be asking if it really makes that much difference to the health of our children.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that unpasteurized milk is 150 times more likely to cause foodborne illness than pasteurized. As for what we give up, they state that research shows “no meaningful difference in the nutritional values of pasteurized and unpasteurized milk”.
Homemade Juice Safety
You can make your own juice at home for your children but it is important to take precautions to prevent foodborne illness.
- Wash your produce thoroughly as it might have bacteria on it (as you should to eat it whole).
- You should always bring your homemade juice to a boil to kill any harmful bacteria before serving to your children.
- Be sure your preparation surfaces are clean too including cutting board, sink, knives, blender and hands to prevent the spread of bacteria.
- Always refrigerate juice and discard unused portions after 24 hours.
- Air and light can quickly degrade homemade juice so store it properly for best nutrition.
Homemade Ice Cream Safety
The Food and Drug Administration has some additional precautions for us to consider when making homemade foods for our family. Here is their recommendations about ice cream:
Each year, homemade ice cream causes serious outbreaks of infection from Salmonella. The ingredient responsible? Raw or undercooked eggs. If you choose to make ice cream at home, use a pasteurized egg product, egg substitute, or pasteurized shell eggs in place of the raw eggs in your favorite recipe. There are also numerous egg-free ice cream recipes available.
In the long run, giving our children healthy foods that have been processed to reduce their risk of spreading illness is something we should carefully consider, especially when pasteurized milk and juice is readily available and nutritious.