10 Back-to-School Food Safety Tips
DATE: 26th July, 2018
Back-to-school and back to packing 180 days of lunches.
For many kids, what is packed in their lunchbox comes as no surprise, but in order to keep the surprise of bacteria off the menu, here are some important steps to follow.
Here’s our list of food safety ingredients to help keep your stomach from churning.
- What about perishables?
If your lunchbox is full of perishable items (eggs, milk, cheese, meat, vegetables) make sure to pack it with two cold pack sources. Harmful bacteria can grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 degrees and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
- No matter what, keep lunch bags and boxes clean.
This means cleaning them once a week with a Clorox wipe or even a simple water and vinegar solution. Although this sounds easy, many of us miss the mark here. According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in six Americans will be felled by food poisoning this year, with 128,000 hospitalized and 3,000 people dying as a result. Thirty-one organisms are known causes of 9.4 million of these illnesses, but 38.4 million people will be sickened by unknown pathogens.
- Be seasonal about it!
During colder months pack a thermos of chili or soup into the lunchbox as it will stay warm for hours prior to lunch. And in the summer, focus more on non-perishables.
- What’s a non-perishable?
When possible, pack non-perishable items like peanut butter, jelly, sliced cheese, canned fruit. Also, consider freezing any boxed milk or juice prior, knowing they will work as an added cold pack while they defrost in the lunchbox.
- Keep sandwiches safe.
If your child likes tomatoes, onions, or lettuce on their sandwich, pack these separately to be put on the sandwich before eating.
- What about fruit?
Dried fruits and whole fruits like apples, bananas, oranges, and grapes can be kept safely at room temperature. But a good rule of thumb to follow: all fresh fruits, even those that will be peeled, must be washed before they’re put in the lunch box.
- What about my child’s lunch leftovers?
Do not—we repeat—do not save or reuse any of the food that is leftover from lunch. Most of those items have stayed out hours beyond their shelf life by the time your child is home from school.
- What kind of lunch box should I look for?
Insulated lunch boxes are safest. The best box / bag has an insulated lining and a pocket in which to place a thin freezer pack to help keep the contents cold until they’re consumed. Don’t worry as much about the lunchbox design, instead, focus on the construction of the product.
- How can I get my child to wash their hands?
In an ideal world, children will wash their hands before eating, but when lunch hours are short and shared with a recess, this piece of hygiene can go by the wayside. Alternatively, put a small bottle sanitizer in your child’s lunch box to promote hand sanitation.
- Break tradition.
This is one of the toughest rules to follow as it deflates an age-old lunchtime tradition. But, if possible, have your child resist sharing food at the lunch table. The process that each of the other children’s food went through before getting to the table is generally unknown. And most importantly, it may contain food products your child is allergic to.