Back To School Lunch Safety

Safely Prepared Lunches Are Important

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:

Temperature Control

** 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.

Sandwich

** 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.

Sandwich & Salad

** 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!

Food Safety Makes Sense

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 of my future projects is a blog book based on my last blog called Food Safety Makes Sense.

As we are still in the pandemic, the public forgets that food poisoning cases also are still happening and are preventable. It makes sense for us to remember that food safety is important to all of us.

The Attitudes of Food Service Workers

I have taught many groups of workers from teens to seniors. The most interesting point to remember is that food safety is not treated seriously. 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. Now that the next wave of the pandemic may be upon us, sanitizing still needs to be taken seriously.

Cappucino

Food Prepared & Purchased in A Typical Day

If you think about your typical day, many of us consume food made at home or nowadays 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 symptoms tend to mimic the flu.

Breakfast Egg Sandwich

Consider The Following Points

For example, if you had an egg sandwich for breakfast in a restaurant, do you consider the following points?

  1. How old is the egg that was used in the ingredients of the sandwich?

2. Did the food handler preparing the sandwich wash his/her hands before preparing the sandwich?

3. Was the egg cooked properly to the correct temperature?

4. Was there any cross-contamination with other menu items being prepared on the grill or at the same time?

Food Handler Washing Hands
  1. Was the handwashing done properly not just using a shot of hand sanitizer? Hand sanitizers are wonderful when sinks with hot and cold water are not available. However, in a restaurant kitchen, there is a designated hand basin to use. Handwashing with hot or warm water and liquid soap sanitizes hands most effectively.
  2. 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.
  3. Was the sandwich cooked to the proper temperature?
  4. 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?

Food safety affects us all though we take this for granted even in the pandemic! Food safety does make sense.

More Breakfast Food

6 Tips for Summer Food Safety

How To Stay Safe This Summer & Prevent Food Poisoning

Now that summer is here, more of us will be camping, having a barbeque and preparing picnic food.

Since restrictions and social distancing have eased, 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.

Summer Salad

6 Tips You Can Follow This Summer

Remember the mantra Keep Cold Foods Cold. Foods such as potato, greek and caesar’s salads 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

Greek Summer Salad

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

Skewers Ready for the Barbeque

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

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 E-coli can cause food poisoning.

Barbeque
A summer favourite of a burger and salad.

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.

Handwashing

Handwashing

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 festivals and events cancelled, picnics, barbeques and camping in the great outdoors will provide us with outdoor dining and fun with our friends and family. Keep your picnic foods stored safely at the correct temperature and the risk of foodborne illness will be reduced.