Packing your child’s school lunch may not seem like such a complicated task, but when you stop and think about food safety issues, it indeed becomes more than just slapping a piece of bologna between two slices of white Wonder bread and tossing in an apple before snapping the lunch box shut and hoping your child will actually eat the lunch you packed.
The majority of packed school lunches will sit in a locker for at least three or more hours before it is taken to a lunchroom full of rambunctious kids and devoured or traded or left uneaten in the course of thirty minutes. But have you ever wondered how long a piece of bologna can be left unrefrigerated before it spoils and may become dangerous to eat? Or if that apple is pesticide free? When was the last time you remembered to clean the inside of your child’s lunchbox?
Usually, school lunches are hastily thrown together early in the morning by parents who are lacking enough hours in the day. But being unprepared and slipshod about food safety issues could possibly lead to food-borne illnesses which could sicken a child for several days or more.
Bacteria are hardy little organisms that thrive on unclean surfaces littered with minute food crumbs, and they want nothing more than to proliferate on such a surface. By knowing some easy-to-do tips regarding the safe handling of food, you can prevent the spread of a food-associated disease such as E. coli or salmonella.
The first thing you need to do before packing that lunch is to submerge your child’s lunchbox in a sink full of a water and bleach mixture. Let it soak for several minutes before taking it out and drying it thoroughly. Remember that bacteria especially love moist surfaces because they find it easier to move around on and spread their diseases. Before preparing your child’s lunch, wipe off countertops which may be harboring minute bits of food from last night’s supper with a clean rag and antibacterial soap.
Foods that are supposed to be refrigerated should not be left unrefrigerated for any longer than two hours, which is why that deli-meat sandwich needs to be packed alongside an ice pack or a frozen drink so that it remains cold and unspoiled. Remember to rinse that apple under a stream of cold water for at least thirty seconds before drying it off and putting it in a lunchbox, especially if you’re lucky enough to have a child who likes to eat the skin of an apple!
An alternative to packing perishable items in your child’s lunch is to pack healthy foods that do not need refrigerated, such as granola bars, single-serve fruit or pudding cups, peanut butter sandwiches, or fruit which does not need washed, such as bananas. And one more thing-try and impart the importance of washing hands before eating to your child. We all know how many things a child’s hands come in contact with during the day!