It's a good idea to follow some basic hygiene rules in the kitchen, as young babies and toddlers are particularly vulnerable to stomach bugs. You don't have to blitz every single surface in sight with antibacterial spray, but, by being sensible, you can help keep germs and bacteria to a minimum.
Rule 1 Reach for the soap
Washing your hands regularly is important if you want to stop germs spreading - use hot soapy water, and remember to be thorough, paying attention to palms, backs of hands, between fingers and wrists.
Wash your hands every time you handle, prepare or serve food. It's also important to pump the handwash every time you handle raw meat, go to the loo, change a soiled nappy, touch the bin or handle pets. Make sure your tot has clean hands before he eats, too. Don't forget to dry your hands properly, too, as moisture makes germs spread more easily.
Antibacterial gels are great at killing bacteria but as soon as your clean hands touch something else, remember that you aren’t protected anymore.
Rule 2 Change that kitchen cloth
Research has shown that up to 134,000 bacteria could be hiding on every square inch of your dishcloth – not a pleasant thought! Grubby, moist cloths are a breeding ground, so wash regularly at high temperatures, or use disposable cloths and replace them often. The same applies to tea towels. You can also try popping sponges and cloths in the dishwasher for a cycle.
It may sound obvious, but don't use the same dishcloth for every job; instead have separate ones for washing up, wiping surfaces, washing floors and so on to avoid cross-contamination.
Rule 3 Keep surfaces shipshape
Regularly disinfect not just your kitchen worktops, but also anything that you frequently touch with your hands, such as cupboard handles and light switches. An antibacterial cleaner is ideal. If you use bleach, make sure you dilute the solution first. And try not to let cats or other pets go for a wander over kitchen counters!
Rule 4 Don't forget nooks and crannies
Before you start preparing food, bear in mind that germs love to hide in tiny crevices – for example, the knife indentations on your chopping board.
While wooden boards might look lovely and rustic, plastic boards are actually a safer bet, as they can be popped in the dishwasher.
You can also wash and disinfect chopping boards with a food-safe antibacterial spray after every use. It’s a smart idea to use different boards for different food types, such as meat and non-meat foods, to avoid cross-contamination. After using a knife on raw meat, wash it thoroughly before using it again.
Rule 5 Wash up well
Dishwashers are more hygienic than hand-washing because they operate at higher temperatures. If you don't have one, then scrape or rinse off as much food as you can before washing in the sink. Then use hot, soapy water and start washing the cleanest items first. Check there are no traces of food stuck in nooks and crannies. Wash baby bottles separately and always use a small bottle brush to remove every trace of dried milk.
Rule 6 Check your fridge is cold enough
Neglected freezers and fridges can be potential breeding grounds for bacteria, especially if food isn't cold enough. Your fridge should be between 0–5 deg C and your freezer lower than -18 deg C. Keep thermometers in both, make sure the doors are always properly closed, and avoid packed shelves groaning with too much food, as this can obstruct the cool airflow.
Rule 7 Think before you store it
Always check food labels for storage length advice. Some chilled items will need to be used up after two days in the fridge, other things within five, others within four weeks. Remember the difference between 'best before' and 'use by' dates, too - the latter means food shouldn't be eaten after the date even if it looks and smells OK, while the former is more about quality than safety (with the exception of eggs). The Food Standards Agency has more info on food safety at www.eatwell.gov.uk/keepingfoodsafe.
Before you pop food on the fridge shelf, make sure you're stacking it correctly. Keep raw or defrosting food – particularly meat – in airtight containers at the bottom of the fridge to prevent juices from dripping onto other items. Use special fridge compartments for their purpose, too – many have special drawers to keep fruit and veg fresher for longer.
If you’re cooking batches of food and want to freeze the excess, first cool the food to room temperature, ideally within one to two hours, before putting it in the fridge or freezer – any longer and bacteria will begin to breed. But don’t put it in the fridge or freezer while it’s still warm, as this will raise the internal temperature. Divide food into smaller portions to speed up the cooling process.
Rule 8 Don't pass viruses on
If you're already ill, take extra care not to spread your infection to your baby. Avoid preparing food for the family if you have a stomach bug. If you have no option, observe the hand washing rules and wear disposable gloves to avoid passing on germs. Use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose if you need to cough or sneeze, then throw it away and wash your hands again before resuming food prep.