Tips for grandparents preparing school lunches
IF YOU are responsible for preparing and packing your grandchild's school lunch boxes, these Food Safety Information Council tips will help you get into good habits for the school year ahead.
- Choose low-risk foods such as hard cheeses, freshly cooked meats and poultry, fresh, well-washed fruits and vegetables, canned tuna or salmon, shelf stable snacks and sandwich spreads.
- When buying lunchboxes, choose ones which are easy to clean and dry, and have room for a frozen drink or freezer block. Insulated lunchboxes are a great idea, but not if they are difficult to keep clean.
- Ensure lunchbox foods are well separated from other foods in the refrigerator, particularly raw meats, chicken, eggs in their shells and fish.
- Always wash and dry your hands thoroughly before preparing food.
- Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly.
- Lunchboxes and reusable drink bottles must be thoroughly washed and dried daily. If cracked, split or crazed, replace as bugs love hidey holes.
- Ensure cutting boards, benches and utensils are clean and dry.
- Make sure lunch foods are cooked properly in the first place
- When reheating, make sure they are cooked all the way through to 75°C using a meat thermometer or auto reheat function in a microwave - stir or turn food as appropriate.
- Lunches can safely be prepared a little ahead of time provided they are kept in the fridge or frozen until ready to leave home.
- When leaving home, pack a frozen juice box, water bottle or commercial ice pack with the lunch.
- Place perishable foods such as cheeses and sandwiches between the frozen items.
- Lunchboxes kept inside the school bag will keep cooler longer especially if the bag is away from heat sources such as direct sunlight.
- Divide cooked leftovers into small lunch-sized portions so they refrigerate or freeze quickly.
- Children's lunchbox will keep a safe temperature until lunchtime at school as long as it has a frozen drink or ice brick in it. During hot weather, consider providing safer lunchbox alternatives such as hard or processed cheese, canned tuna or sandwich spreads.
- Discard any higher risk foods such as sushi, meat, poultry or eggs if not eaten that day.
- If in doubt throw it out!
- Warn children against sharing drink bottles.
- Sharing lunches is also not a good idea as it is difficult to know what allergies other children may have, or whether the foods have been prepared using the basic food safety tips.