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Keeping lunchbox meals safe

After the long summer holiday, parents and students are now getting back into the school routine – which also means getting back into the daily lunch-making routine.

Parents are therefore reminded by Department of Environmental Health (DEH) officials of the importance of following good food-safety practices when preparing children’s school lunches.

“It is important to keep our children safe from food-borne illness by following the recommended safety guidelines,” said, DEH Senior Food Safety Officer Gideon Simms.

At Home

  • Keep the kitchen’s food preparation areas clean.
  • Wash your hands with antibacterial soap and warm water before handling food.
  • Clean your cutting boards, dishes, utensils and countertops with hot water, and a sanitizer or antibacterial soap.
  • Don’t let pets jump up on kitchen counters.
  • After making lunch, return perishable foods (like cheese, deli meats and mayonnaise) to your refrigerator promptly. Don’t let them sit out on the counter.

The Lunchbox

  • Pack lunch in the morning, not the night before. Make sure that cold foods are cold before packing them in a lunchbox.
  • Insulated lunchboxes are the best way to keep food at a safe temperature until it’s time to eat. Sandwiches made with refrigerated items such as luncheon meats, cheese and tuna salad should be carried in an insulated lunch bag with an ice pack. This will keep the sandwiches 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, like soups, stews or chilies. In the morning, bring food to a boil and then pour it into a hot, clean vacuum bottle. (You can disinfect the vacuum bottle with boiling water.)

At School

  • Instruct kids to store their lunchboxes in a cool place, out of direct sunlight.
  • Place dairy products such as milk and yogurt into a refrigerator.
  • Instruct kids to always wash their hands before eating.
  • Never eat food that has a funny taste or smell.
  • Use food within their recommended “use-by” dates.

Lunch foods that can be eaten at room temperature include the following:

  • Peanut butter
  • Jams and jellies
  • Breads, crackers, cereals
  • Clean fruits and vegetables
  • Dried meats, such as beef jerky
  • Baked products, such as cookies and cakes
  • Canned meat or poultry products that are eaten immediately after opening.

DEH officials ask parents to follow these tips, in order to prevent children from acquiring food-borne illnesses. For more information on food safety, please contact DEH at 949-6696.


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