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Keep school lunch cool

Keep school lunch cool

31 January 2008

Next week marks the beginning of another school year and that means hundreds of thousands of lunches.

New Zealand Food Safety Authority microbiologist Roger Cook says that with the balmy weather we have been having throughout New Zealand, parents should be extra careful about food safety.

"While parents understand the need to provide healthier, fresher food like salads and sushi, it's important that these foods are kept cool.

"Warmer weather allows bacteria on food to quickly double in numbers so school lunches can spoil in a very short time, especially if they're left out in the sun, and that can make children sick."

There are some very simple ideas to help prevent lunch boxes becoming breeding grounds for harmful bacteria.

Freeze drink bottles overnight to give you an instant ice block, or use a novelty freezer pack designed for kids if it's fun, they'll insist you use it.

Talk to your children about lunch box safety so they know why it's important to look after their lunch and keep it cool. Keep it inside the classroom away from the sunny and hot spots.

Pack perishable foods, such as cold meats, chicken or egg sandwiches between cold items such as yoghurts and fruit salads.

Buy an insulated lunch box if you need a new one.

Don't reuse any perishable leftovers if the kids bring them home.

Wash a reusable lunch box with hot, soapy water and dry it before re-use.

Keep lunches made the night before in the refrigerator overnight.

Some foods are safe even if not kept cold. These include fruits, vegetables, hard cheeses, meat and fish in cans, bread, crackers, pickles and spreads. But, if in doubt, chill.

If you are preparing large quantities of food for a group of children or for several lunches, put it in the fridge immediately after preparation and also in small packages, well separated so that they cool quickly. Alternatively, freeze small, single- serve quantities so you can defrost them individually.

Ensure your kitchen benches, hands and utensils are clean when you're preparing and packing the food, and wash and dry any fruits and vegetables thoroughly, including those you've grown yourself. When buying fruit for kids' school lunches, don't be tempted to pick up damaged items and avoid foods that may be tricky to clean, such as raspberries.

Following the 4Cs Clean, Cook, Cover, Chill and the 20+20 hand wash rule (20 seconds wash plus 20 seconds dry = clean hands) are among the most effective ways to ensure you keep your kid's food safe, and help them stay healthy.

ENDS

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