Back to school is the perfect time for food safety reminders and especially to keeps hands clean according to hygiene experts.

Fresno, California – It’s that time of year, back to school. And now is a good time to remind families of the dangers of foodborne illnesses that can find their way into school lunches. At Datatech, we support may clients with families with children heading back to class after a summer helping with the harvest. Preparing safe lunches and reminders on personal hygiene goes a long way toward healthiness.

“As a mother, I understand the stress that comes with the start of a new school year, but preparing a safe lunch doesn’t have to be a challenge,” said Carmen Rottenberg, Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety at USDA. “Simple steps like washing your hands and keeping food at the correct temperature can stop the spread of bacteria and keep your children safe from foodborne illness.”

Washing hands is the single most important thing to do to promote healthy and safe lunches for children say hygiene experts.

Food safety experts at the United States Department of Agriculture put out time reminders on this topic throughout the year. The biggest and simplest method of food safety, washing your hands. A recent USDA study found that 97 percent of study subjects should have washed their hands, they didn’t do it or not correctly. Poor hand cleanliness promoted cross-contamination of spice containers, refrigerator handles, ready-to-eat foods and other areas of the kitchen.

Experts say that bacteria can live on surfaces up to 32 hours, and it’s easy to contaminate sandwich bread and lunch meat with preparing your child’s lunch. This can be avoided with these “Back to School Food Safety Tips” from the USDA:

  • Make sure lunch bags and coolers are clean before packing. Pack moist towelettes so children can clean hands before and after eating. 
  • Use an insulated lunch bag or cooler and at least two cold sources, such as freezer packs, for lunches that contain perishable food items like luncheon meats, eggs, cheese or yogurt. This will help keep food safely cold at 40°F or below until lunch time.
  • If packing a hot lunch, like soup, chili or stew, use an insulated container to keep it hot. Fill the container with boiling water, let stand for a few minutes, empty, and then put in the piping hot food. Tell children to keep the insulated container closed until lunchtime to keep the food at 140°F or above.
  • For safety, instruct children to discard all leftover food and used food packaging.

Food Safety Basics

Keep these basic food safety steps in mind when packing lunches, making dinner and preparing food all year round.

Clean: Wash hands with soap and warm water, and surfaces with soap and hot water before and after handling food. Rinse raw produce in water before eating, cutting or cooking.

Separate: Avoid spreading bacteria from one food product to another. Use two separate cutting boards — one for raw meat and poultry, and one for produce or ready to eat foods. 

Cook: The only way to make sure meat and poultry is safe to eat is to ensure it reaches the safe minimum internal temperature needed to destroy harmful bacteria. If sending soups, stews or chili to school, be sure to heat the food to 165°F, as measured by a food thermometer, before pouring it into an insulated container.

Chill: At room temperature, bacteria in food can double every 20 minutes. To avoid this, make sure to chill all perishable foods within two hours (one hour in temperatures above 90°F). Discard any perishable foods that were left at room temperature longer than that.

Datatech serves agribusinesses and payroll services nationwide with accounting, farm management, payroll, sales, traceability and warehouse management solutions. 

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