I always get asked questions on children’s school lunches. Parents ask if lunches are not refrigerated, how can they be safe? Of course, most of us attended school and didn’t have insulated lunch boxes or ice gel packs and did not become ill. However, there are some steps to take that will help reduce the risk of food poisoning and provide a safe lunch.
Here are safety tips for parents:
** When preparing sandwiches, use either frozen bread or refrigerate the night before. Otherwise, pack with cold drinks, a frozen juice box or an ice pack in an insulated lunch box and that will keep food cool enough until lunch time.
** Remind children to throw away perishable leftovers and recycle packaging when possible. Use individual containers and don’t re-use food packaging as this increases the risk of cross-contamination. As allergies are an increasing concern with children, any re-used packaging could contain an allergen, eg. peanut butter, which can be placed onto another food, eg. cheese, causing an allergic reaction.
** Wash all fruits and vegetables with tap water and then dry with paper towel before adding to the lunch box.
** Insulated bottles can also be used to keep hot food out of the temperature danger zone. Fill the bottle first with boiling water, empty and fill with the hot food.
** Most importantly, wash your hands before preparing your child’s lunch.
Stay on the Right Track
School lunches safety prepared will help children start back to school safely and ensure a great start to the new school year!
We are all feeling the inflation rise with higher prices for fruits and vegetables.
What Can You Do?
Here are some tips to help you make wise decisions when buying these items and also help you keep produce safe.
It’s best to choose produce that is not damaged or bruised.
When buying pre-cut, bagged or packaged produce, such as salad greens or half a cantaloupe, check that the produce is refrigerated or surrounded by ice.
Most of us know to always store fresh fruits and vegetables separately from raw meats, poultry and seafood when taking groceries home from the store. There was a case of raw blood from a torn hamburger meat package dripping onto raw salad greens which caused an outbreak of E. Coli! This was preventable if the vegetables and raw meat had been packed separately at the grocery store.
Separate For Safety
It’s very important to keep raw fruits and vegetables separate from raw meats and seafood, and also to use separate kitchen utensils for these items. When finished with food preparation, always wash the knives and cutting boards in hot soapy water or the dishwasher.
Tips To Follow
You can save money on produce with these helpful tips:
*Buy produce which is cold and refrigerate immediately when home.
*Use clean and sanitary utensils for food preparation.
*Cut away damaged or bruised areas on fresh fruits and vegetables before preparing or eating.
*Do not wash fruits and vegetables with soap, detergent or a commercial produce wash as these steps are not effective.
*Even if you do not plan to eat the skin of fruits and vegetables, wash with water first to prevent dirt and bacteria transferring from the surface when peeling or cutting.
*Use a clean produce brush to scrub firm produce with water such as melons and cucumbers which will also remove surface contaminants.
By following these tips, you will reduce produce wastage and reduce your food costs!
In my former career, I was a public health inspector/environmental health officer and ran my own business called Enviro-Food Consulting. I trained a large number of restaurant and foodservice workers on food safety techniques. One upcoming project is a book based on my last blog called Food Safety Makes Sense.
Most people do not take food safety seriously. If you have a family member with allergies, or you have purchased a food product that has been recalled or you have travelled or dined out and developed food poisoning, you know how necessary it is for food to be prepared safely. It makes sense for us to remember that food safety is important to all of us.
The Attitude of Foodservice Workers
I have taught many groups of workers from teens to seniors. Working in a restaurant is thought of as just another job. Management is not always supportive. If workers notice that management doesn’t take an interest in them, they are not concerned about food safety. That means sanitizing isn’t done carefully, hands are wiped not washed and dirty cloths are not replaced. As the pandemic has shown us, sanitizing is taken more seriously but foodborne disease outbreaks are still occurring.
Food Prepared & Purchased In A Typical Day
If you think about your typical day, many of us consume food made at home or may enjoy a takeout item including drinks such as coffee. We all forget how much we depend on the food supply chain to provide us with safe food to eat which won’t make us ill. Many cases of foodborne illness are not reported as they mimic the flu.
Breakfast Meals For Take-Out
Consider The Following Points:
For example, if you had an egg sandwich for breakfast in a restaurant, do you consider:
How old is the egg that was used in the ingredients?
Did the food handler preparing the sandwich wash his/her hands before preparing the sandwich?
Was the handwashing done properly and not just using a shot of hand sanitizer? Hand sanitizers are wonderful when sinks with hot water and soap are not available. However, in a restaurant kitchen, there is a designated handwashing sink to use. Handwashing with hot or warm water and liquid soap sanitizes hands most effectively.
Was the work area sanitized? This should be done with an approved sanitizer in a spray bottle and clean cloth. If the cloth is dirty, contaminants will be spread around the surfaces.
Was the sandwich cooked to the proper temperature?
Is the purchased sandwich hot, lukewarm or even cold? Uneven temperatures mean the food is in the Danger Zone where various food poisoning organisms can grow.
Do You Still Want To Eat the Egg Sandwich?
After thinking about all these points, do you still want to eat the egg sandwich?
Even though the weather is extremely hot right now, summer provides us with good times outdoors to enjoy family picnics, holidays and camping. As with all meals, food preparation is the key especially when family members and guests represent all age groups. Food poisoning can easily be prevented. Here are some tips for summer food safety.
Foods To Avoid This Summer
Raw Milk, Juices & Cheeses
Raw milk is unpasteurized and can contain bacteria and viruses which cause food poisoning. Unpasteurized juices and cheeses are also unsafe. Stick to pasteurized products as the heat treatment of pasteurization destroys these disease-causing microbes.
Raw sprouts should be avoided because the danger exists in the growing process. Many outbreaks have occurred in countries from sprout contamination mainly caused by the germination process where the seeds are sprouted in standing water which grows bacteria.
You’ve heard about raw oysters before! Foodborne illness outbreaks linked to shellfish have increased steadily due to global warming. Warmer water increases microbial growth, and filter feeders such as oysters pass the micro-organisms into their systems when they filter the water. Vibrio is one example of an illness caused from eating raw oysters.
Raw cookie dough treats are popular, but the flour is cooked before the dough is made. However, uncooked flour can spread bacteria such as E. coli. Outbreaks of food poisoning have occurred from eating raw cookie dough so it’s not a good idea to consume this.
Raw Meats & Fish
Sushi is great but must not sit out in the sun or in the Danger Zone for longer than 2 hours. As we are in a hot spell this summer, sushi must be consumed in a shorter period of time as the outside temperature when on a picnic or camping is higher than normal. Raw fish and raw meat contain bacteria. It’s not worth eating raw hamburger or partially cooked meat as bacteria is still present in the raw product. This can result in E. coli which causes kidney failure among other symptoms.
The Best Tips for Safety
It’s always best practice to wash your hands before, during and after food preparation.
There are five steps for proper handwashing: wet hands, lather with soap, scrub for 20 seconds, rinse, and dry. Many people forget or don’t scrub their hands for 20 seconds which allows their hands to remain contaminated. This then contaminates the foods they are preparing or serving.
Watch The Danger Zone
Use a food thermometer to check menu items such as meats and fish when cooking. The thermometer must go in the center of the product and reach the appropriate temperature as shown on the chart.
Most importantly, remember that handwashing will be your best preventive tool. If you touch a platter of raw fruit after handling raw meats, you will then contaminate the raw fruit. Even condiments and bags of chips can help spread disease-causing organisms via cross-contamination. Children touching playground equipment in parks and backyards can allow microscopic amounts of bird droppings on hamburgers, hot dogs and other foods. It’s especially important when camping to wash hands correctly after playing outdoors and swimming in lakes or other waterways.
If you follow these tips, you will have safe meal preparation this summer!
Source: Food Safety News July 2, 2022
Foods to avoid this Independence Day and tips to avoid holiday food poisoning by Jonan Pilet
How To Stay Safe This Summer & Prevent Food Poisoning
Summer is Almost Here!
Now that summer is almost here, more of us will be camping, having a barbeque and preparing picnic food.
With restrictions and social distancing still in place, an outdoor picnic is a great way to meet up and share food. However, this is a time when food poisoning can increase due to leaving hazardous foods out on the picnic table in the hot sun therefore allowing bacteria to grow.
Tips You Can Follow This Summer:
Remember the mantra Keep Cold Foods Cold. Foods such as potato salad and caesar’s salad need to be kept cold at 4 C or 40 F. Do not leave these salads sitting out in the hot sunshine for hours as they will be in the Danger Zone where organisms can grow.
Keep Cold Foods Cold & Use A Cooler When Grocery Shopping
If you are purchasing foods ahead of time at the grocery store or supermarket, place the frozen or cold foods inside a cooler containing ice packs or ice gels in your car. This will help maintain a constant cold temperature for your products until you are home or at your picnic or campsite.
Raw Food Storage
Raw foods such as hamburger meat should be double wrapped and placed in the cooler as well so as not to leak on other foods. Raw meat juices or blood can easily cross-contaminate. If you have cooked products such as hamburgers or hot dogs, keep them in separate closed containers so as not to become cross-contaminated with raw juices if stored together in the cooler.
Barbequing is very popular in the summer months. When cooking hamburgers, always remember to keep the raw meats separate from the cooked burgers. Do not place the cooked burgers back on the plate used for the raw meats as cross contamination will occur. Use separate utensils for the raw meats and the cooked hamburgers. Never eat under-cooked or raw hamburgers as bacteria such as Ecoli can cause food poisoning.
Recycling Plastic Utensils & Take-out Containers
When using plastic utensils and take-out containers, remember that these can be recycled. Covid is mainly spread through aerosols so the single service items can still be recycled. Better yet, take your re-usable dishes with you when camping or having a picnic and wash them later using hot soapy water.
Most importantly, don’t forget to wash your hands and/or use the hand sanitizer before, during and after preparing and serving food. It is extremely important to be vigilant on this practice as it will reduce the spread of covid as well as prevent food poisoning organisms from making you ill. If you are ill or experiencing symptoms, do not prepare the picnic foods.
Have a Safe Food Summer!
As we face a summer with many events cancelled, picnics, barbeques and camping in the great outdoors will provide us with outdoor dining and safe distancing with our friends and family. Keep your picnic foods stored safely at the correct temperature and the risk of foodborne illness will be reduced.