Safer Food Choices for Children Under 5 Years Old

Help Prevent Food Poisoning

children under 5 at risk of food poisoning

Young children have a higher risk of food poisoning. Their immune systems are still developing, so their bodies aren’t able to fight germs and sickness as well as adults. Food poisoning can be particularly dangerous for them because it can lead to diarrhea and dehydration.

To prevent food poisoning, some foods are safer choices than others. That’s because some foods—such as undercooked meat and eggs, unwashed fruits and vegetables, and unpasteurized milk — are more often associated with foodborne illnesses. Use the table below as a guide to safer food choices.

Riskier vs. safer foods for children under 5
Foods Riskier Choice Safer Choice
Poultry and Meat
Meat and poultry
Raw or undercooked poultry or meat
  • Poultry includes chicken and turkey
  • Meat includes beef, pork, lamb, and veal
Poultry and meat cooked to a safe internal temperature. Use a food thermometer to check.
  • All poultry, including ground chicken and ground turkey, cooked to 165°F
  • Whole cuts of beef, veal, lamb, and pork cooked to 145°F (then allow the meat to rest for 3 minutes before carving or eating)
  • Ground meat, including beef and pork, cooked to 160°F
Vegetables and Fruits
Fruit and vegetables
  • Any raw or undercooked sprouts, such as alfalfa and bean
  • Unwashed fresh fruits and vegetables, including lettuce and other leafy greens
  • Cut melon left out for more than 2 hours (1 hour if it’s exposed to temperatures hotter than 90°F, such as a picnic or hot car)
  • Cooked sprouts (until steaming hot)
  • Washed vegetables and fruits (washed and then cooked are safest)
  • Freshly cut melon or cut melon kept refrigerated for 7 or fewer days
Unpasteurized juice or cider
  • Pasteurized juice or cider
  • Unpasteurized juice or cider brought to a rolling boil and boiled for at least 1 minute before drinking
Unpasteurized (raw) milk, and dairy products made from unpasteurized milk Pasteurized milk, and dairy products made from pasteurized milk
Soft cheese made from unpasteurized (raw) milk — for example, queso fresco, brie, camembert, and blue-veined cheese
  • Hard cheese, such as cheddar and swiss
  • Cottage cheese, cream cheese, string cheese, and feta
  • Soft cheese that is clearly labeled “made from pasteurized milk”
Raw or undercooked (runny) eggs, and foods that contain raw or undercooked eggs, such as
  • Caesar salad dressing
  • Raw cookie dough or raw batter
  • Homemade eggnog
  • Eggs cooked until the yolks and whites are firm
  • Egg dishes (frittata, quiche, casserole) cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F if they contain meat or poultry
  • Egg dishes cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F if they do not contain meat or poultry
  • Pasteurized eggs in foods that will not be cooked to a safe temperature, such as mousse and salad dressing
Raw or undercooked fish or shellfish, including sashimi, sushi, and ceviche
  • Fish cooked to a safe internal temperature of 145°F or until the flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork
  • Shellfish cooked until shells open during cooking or until flesh is pearly or white, and opaque
Raw dough or raw batter made with raw (uncooked) flour
  • Food made with flour that is cooked following the package directions or recipe
  • Dough and batter made with heat-treated flour and pasteurized eggs
  • Dough and batter that is labeled “edible” or “safe to eat raw”

Always follow the four steps to food safety—clean, separate, cook, and chill—to protect yourself from food poisoning.

Learn about current foodborne outbreaks and the foods linked to them.