Brown Bagging to School
Following the summer break, parents and students are firmly back with school routines - and for many adults, that has also meant a return to packing daily lunches for their children.
Department of Environmental Health (DEH) staffers are accordingly reminding parents that following good food-safety practices is vital when it comes to preparing school lunches.
"We can do much to keep our children safe from food-borne illnesses if we only observe the following safety guidelines," advised DEH Senior Food Safety Officer Gideon Simms:
- Keep food-preparation areas clean.
- Wash hands with antibacterial soap and warm water before handling food.
- Clean cutting boards, dishes, utensils and countertops with hot water and a sanitizer or antibacterial soap.
- Stop pets from jumping on kitchen counters.
- Return perishable foods, e.g., cheese, deli meats and mayonnaise, to the refrigerator promptly after preparing lunch. Don't let them sit out on the counter.
- Pack lunch in the morning, not the previous night. Ensure that cold foods are cold before packing them in a lunchbox.
- Keep food in insulated lunchboxes, at a safe temperature, until it's time to eat. Use icepacks for sandwiches made with items such as luncheon meats, cheese and tuna salad. They will be safe to eat, even after two to three hours outside of a refrigerator.
- Pack a frozen juice box or an ice pack in the lunchbox, to help cold food stay cold.
- Keep hot foods hot, such as soups or stews. In the morning, bring to a boil and then pour into a hot, clean vacuum bottle. (Bottles can be disinfected with boiling water).
- Instruct kids to store lunchboxes in a cool place, out of direct sunlight.
- Place dairy products such as milk and yogurt inside a refrigerator.
- Remind kids to always wash hands before eating.
- Instruct kids to never eat food that tastes or smells 'funny.'
- Use food within the recommended 'use-by' dates.
Lunch foods that can be eaten at room temperature include peanut butter, jams and jellies, breads, crackers and cereals, washed fruits and vegetables, dried meats such as beef jerky, and baked products such as cookies and cakes. Canned meat or poultry products can also be eaten immediately after opening.
DEH officials urge parents to follow these tips in order to help prevent their children from catching food-borne illnesses.
For more information on food safety, please contact DEH at 949-6696.