May 21, 2024

How Long Can Formula Sit Out?

Illnesses related to baby formula are very common in the United States. While researchers don’t know the source of all these illnesses, some are related to improper preparation or storage of baby formula. Formula should not sit out for more than 2 hours after preparation. To prevent such issues, understand what happens when you leave it out too long, and symptoms in your baby that may indicate ingestion of bad formula.

baby formula being prepared
  • Prepared baby formula should not sit out at room temperature for more than two hours, to prevent bacterial growth that can harm infants.
  • Any leftover formula from a feeding should be discarded to avoid risks of contamination, especially from bacteria growth facilitated by mixing with a baby’s saliva.
  • It’s important to recognize signs of spoiled formula, such as abnormal smell or color, and to consult healthcare providers if ingestion is suspected, as spoiled formula can cause serious health issues in babies.

Some problems with tainted baby formula occur at the manufacturing facility. Over the last few years, several companies have recalled baby formula and food for contamination concerns. If you suspect your baby got sick because their formula was tainted when you received it, contact Keep Food Safe for help regarding your legal options.

How Long Can Formula Sit Out?

To best protect your baby, use formula within two hours of preparation and within one hour of beginning feeding. You can prepare the formula beforehand but do not store it in the refrigerator for more than 24 hours afterward. Even in the refrigerator, longer storage times can cause the formula to sicken your baby.

Be careful about leaving formula out too long in your vehicle after you have prepared it. If you are taking a trip, keep infant formula containers in a cool, dry place, especially on long car trips.

What Happens When Baby Formula Sits Out Too Long?

When you leave formula out too long, harmful bacteria can start to grow. Bacteria grow fastest in warm environments—from 40 degrees Fahrenheit to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, known as the danger zone.

Babies and infants are at higher risk of developing foodborne illnesses because their immune systems have not fully developed. They have a harder time fighting off bacteria and infections.

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What Are Signs That Baby Formula Is Spoiled?

If you are new to using baby formula, talk to your friends and doctor about what it normally looks and smells like. As time passes, you will recognize when you may have an issue. Some signs of spoiled baby formula include:

If you have doubts about whether formula is safe for your baby, throw it out. This can be a difficult choice, especially for those struggling financially. However, your baby’s health is paramount, and illnesses from tainted formula can cause prolonged sickness and high medical bills, even if you have insurance.

Can You Store Leftover Formula in a Bottle After a Feeding?

To be safe, dispose of any leftover formula after feeding. The formula itself can start to grow bacteria, particularly when mixed with your baby’s saliva. Date-labeling your bottles can help you avoid using leftover formulas and other problems. Keeping up with a baby, running on a lack of sleep, and having multiple people in your household providing childcare make it understandably difficult to monitor formula safety.

What Can Happen if a Baby Drinks Formula That Has Spoiled?

Spoiled baby formula can cause gastric distress in your baby, which is similar to an adult’s experience after eating tainted food. Some common symptoms of bad formula ingestion include:

If your baby has a fever, see a doctor immediately. A fever is a sign that an infection has started. One of the more dangerous infections linked to baby formula is cronobacter infections. Cronobacter sakazakii is a germ that occurs naturally in the environment. It can live in dry foods such as baby formula and powdered milk. 

Cronobacter infections are rare, but they can be life-threatening. Baby formula can be infected with cronobacter germs at home or in processing facilities.

Other Foodborne Illness Risks Associated With Baby Formula

You must also heed where and how you prepare your baby formula. Bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli, campylobacter, and others can live on surfaces such as countertops or utensils that aren’t properly cleaned. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before preparing the formula. Bacteria such as Shigella can spread through fecal matter that you might accidentally pass to your baby.

Other Contaminants in Baby Food

Another potential health problem for babies is heavy metals in baby food. Some exposure to heavy metals occurs from their presence in the earth’s crust and pollution. However, overexposure can harm a baby’s developing brain. Common metals in food include lead, cadmium, mercury, and arsenic. A recent recall of baby food involved elevated lead and chromium levels in apple cinnamon fruit pouches.

There have been several recent recalls related to baby formula and food, including:

It is essential to keep up with baby formula recalls because they happen often. The Food and Drug Administration website lists the latest news about baby formula and recalls. You also can join online parenting groups and talk to your pediatrician about the potential for formula-related illnesses.

Other Health Considerations Related to Babies and Baby Formula

Another health concern for babies is necrotizing enterocolitis, or NEC, a severe gastrointestinal problem that primarily affects premature babies. Scientists are unsure what causes NEC and have not conclusively linked it to baby formula.

Local officials may notify you that your tap water isn’t safe for consumption during a disaster or emergency. Take steps to make your water safe before mixing it with baby formula. Do not resume using tap water until officials lift the emergency.

If you are concerned that your baby became seriously ill after consuming bad formula that someone else tainted, contact Keep Food Safe today for help.

How Long Can Unopened Baby Formula Last?

Always check the label for the manufacturer’s recommendation for how long unopened baby food can last. Most formulas are good for up to a month once you open the can. Always store your formula in a cool, dry place in a tightly sealed container. As a reminder, write the date you opened it on the container top.

If you have any questions about whether baby formula is safe based on its appearance or other factors, play it safe and discard it regardless of the expiration date.

Can You Freeze Prepared Baby Formula?

It is tempting for parents to prepare formula in advance, but do not freeze prepared baby formula. Freezing it can cause the product’s various components to separate. 

Things easily get hectic when you have a baby, but following baby formula storing and preparation recommendations is critical. If you’ve done everything you can and your baby still becomes ill after consuming formula, reach out for help to discuss your legal options.

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