By: Richard L. Smith
Parents and caregivers play a critical role in ensuring the safety of school lunches, especially as children are more susceptible to foodborne illnesses.
According to USDA officials, failing in food safety is not an option, so it's essential to follow some helpful tips from the USDA to make the food safety honor roll.
Keeping Cold Foods Cold and Hot Foods Hot is paramount. Instead of using risky paper bags, opt for insulated lunch boxes that maintain proper cooling.
For cold foods, use at least two cold sources like frozen gel packs, juice boxes, or water bottles to keep the food safe and prevent bacterial growth in the "Danger Zone" (temperatures between 40 F and 140 F).
When packing hot foods like chili, soups, or stews, invest in insulated containers to keep them hot until lunchtime, maintaining temperatures of 140 F or above.
If you prepare lunch the night before and refrigerate it, make sure to take the bag or lunchbox out just before leaving home.
Only pack the amount of perishable food that can be consumed during lunch to avoid storage or safety issues with leftovers.
To ace the Food Safety Honor Roll, always remember the Four Steps:
- Clean: Thoroughly wash hands, utensils, and food preparation surfaces to prevent cross-contamination.
- Separate: Keep raw meats and poultry separate from other foods to avoid potential contamination.
- Cook: Ensure that all foods, especially meat, poultry, and eggs, are cooked to their proper internal temperatures to kill harmful bacteria.
- Chill: Refrigerate perishable foods promptly to prevent bacteria from multiplying.
By adhering to these food safety guidelines, parents and caregivers can confidently prepare school lunches that are not only delicious but also safe for their children to enjoy.
Prioritizing food safety will help create a healthy, worry-free lunchtime experience for students.
INFORMATION CREDIT: USDA