Children are more at risk of food-borne illness, and therefore parents and caregivers need to pack their lunches with food safety in mind. According to CDC, almost 50% of annual Salmonella infections happen to infants and school-age children. This is likely because the immune system of children are not adequately developed to fight off the bacteria that can grow in foods.
Temperature control is a major factor in food safety, especially during the summer months. Bacteria can rapidly multiply at a temperature between 20° – 45°C, taking 20 to 40 minutes to do so. This means that by the time tea or lunch time comes around, millions of bacterial cells have grown.
Below are a few tips on packing school lunches:
- Use insulated lunch boxes – for cold lunches
If the lunch packed needs to be refrigerated, ask if they have access to a refrigerator at school and remind them to put their lunch in it as soon as they get there. Be sure to label your child’s name on the container.
- Use cold packs – for cold lunches
Cold packs should be used even in insulated lunch boxes when there is perishable food inside such as lunch meats, eggs, cheese, milk and yogurt. Another idea is to freeze any beverages that will be accompanying lunch and use that to keep the items cool in the lunch box, by lunch time the beverage should thaw by lunchtime.
- Pack lunches just before school
- Use thermo flasks or other insulated containers – for hot lunches
- Pre-heat thermo flasks by putting boiling water into the container and let it sit for a few minutes, then decant the water and put the hot food in, like soup or stew. This will help in maintaining the hot food temperature until lunchtime.
- Leave lunches in the fridge overnight if packing them the night before – for cold lunches.
- Individually packaged disposable wipes
- Including wipes in the lunch box and reminding them to use them before and after eating reinforces the significance of hand cleaning and washing before meals
- Clean lunch boxes as soon as possible
- Leftover food should be thrown away after lunch that includes all used food packaging.
- Keeping unrefrigerated perishables in the lunchbox for later means that they will no longer be kept at a safe temperature and could become a safety risk.
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