September was National Food Safety Education month and it was also back to school season. Coincidence or not, now it’s the perfect time to learn at least the basics of how to prevent foodborne illness from school lunches, whether packed at home or purchased at school. (Related Topics: Florida Food Handlers Certificates, Florida Food Handlers Card, Florida Food Handler Certification)
Leading national advocates for safe food nationwide are shining the spotlight on ways to keep school lunches safe and kids healthy, through safety activism not only amongst parents but also among teachers, who can add food safety to their curriculum which can spark the engine of change and make a difference.
Of course, for teachers, it’s a matter of instructing and educating kids and their parents on the basic principles of food safety, its protocols and how to follow them correctly. For parents, on the other hand, it is about being active and implementing these food safety protocols and practices into their daily lives.
The following are a few tips you might want to keep into account for when it’s time to safely pack school lunches:
- Always wash your hands thoroughly when preparing lunch, make sure not only your hands are clean but also that the surfaces you’re working on and the container or package that will hold the food are clean as well.
- Teach your kids to make a habit out of washing their hands before and after eating lunch. Although water and soap are still kings, hand sanitizer or a wet wipe with alcohol can also do the trick.
- Maintain the food at the right temperature using thermal containers. The temperature “danger zone” is between 40° and 140° F. At that temperature bacteria grow most rapidly so it is advised that you take preventive measures like using an insulated lunch box or an insulated thermal container that can keep food at the right temperature.
- If you’re packaging a hot food for your kid, make sure to pack it while it’s still hot.
- Freeze milk, juice boxes, and water bottles before packing them to help keep the drinks cold, along with other cold foods you’ve packed. Frozen items will slowly melt during morning classes and be ready for drinking at lunch.
- Use ice packs. Another “great idea,” according to Stop Foodborne Illness, these inexpensive items are an alternative to freezing drinks and are vital for keeping cold foods cold. You can pick them up for about $1 each.
- Wash and separate fresh fruits/veggies before packing in plastic containers to keep them away from other foods. Dry produce with a clean cloth towel or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present on the surface.
- Use individual snack packs. If many hands are in and out of a “family size” bag, the potential for exposure to bacteria is greater.
- Add room-temperature-safe foods such as peanut butter, jelly, cookies, crackers, chips, dried fruit, and certain whole fruits.
- Don’t put food on bare tables and pack a paper towel, napkin or some wax paper kids can use in the cafeteria.
- Any food that touches the floor needs to be thrown away.
- Let your child know it is OK to throw away perishables like meat, poultry or egg sandwiches, if not eaten at lunchtime. Unopened, room-temperature-safe foods and uneaten fruit can be kept.
Clean and sanitize your child’s box every evening before packing the next day’s lunch.
At Brunswick Food Service Educators, we have over 35 years of experience as a Certified ServSafe Instructor and registered Proctor. Florida Food Handler Certification is required by Florida law for all employees. We understand that people are busy and the culinary industry can be very demanding and time-consuming; that’s why at Brunswick Food Service Educators, we offer same-day completion of classes and exams so you can get on with your busy schedule. For a more detailed look at what we offer or for class schedules, contact us at 561-703-7196 or 561-369-2622.