September is more than just back to school time, it’s also National Food Safety Month. Founded in 1994, National Food Safety Month strives to heighten the awareness of food safety education and the dangers of foodborne illnesses. With that in mind, we at Summit Academy believe this is the perfect time to educate children on food safety and ensure they are eating safe lunches.
Fast Facts on Food Safety
- According to the CDC, in 2011 9.4 million cases of foodborne illnesses were reported with more than 56,000 hospitalized and 1,300 dying.
- Everyone is at risk for a contracting a foodborne illness – but the very young, the elderly, and those already ill are most at risk.
- Always remember the bacteria danger zone of 40 to 140° F, the temperature range where bacteria grows rapidly.
- It is important to always wash your hands before and after eating a meal.
- Avoid putting food on tables. Keep it on the plate or put a napkin down.
- Do a routine check of your refrigerator’s temperature using an ordinary thermometer. In a study, more than 43% of home refrigerators were found to be above 40° F.
- Despite popular consensus, the Five-Second Rule is a myth. Any food that touches the floor needs to be washed or thrown away.
8 Tips for Packing a Safe School Lunch
- When preparing lunches, wash your hands and be sure to keep all surfaces clean. Use this as an opportunity to explain to your child the importance of cleanliness in preventing foodborne illness.
- Buy an insulated lunch box/bag. Food safety experts agree this is a “must-have” item. This helps keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot, keeping them out of the bacteria danger zone.
- Use ice packs. Another lunchbox must have, these inexpensive items are vital for keeping cold foods cold. You can pick them up for about $1 each.
- Buy an insulated thermos. This keeps hot foods hot, like soups, chili, or mac and cheese.
- Freeze drinks before packing. Frozen milk, juice boxes, and water bottles will help keep the drinks cold, along with other cold foods you’ve packed, and will thaw just in time for lunch.
- Pack hot foods while hot. Don’t wait for hot foods to cool down before packing. Instead, pour piping hot foods, like soups, immediately into an insulated thermos. You can also preheat your thermos by filling it with boiling water, letting it sit for a few minutes, pouring out the water, and then adding your hot food.
- Try and pack room-temperature-safe foods whenever possible. Use nonperishable items or foods that do not need refrigeration like peanut butter, jelly, cookies, crackers, chips, dried fruit, and certain whole fruits.
- Make sure lunch boxes are regularly cleaned and sanitized. We recommend you clean your child’s box each evening before packing the next day’s lunch.
Get Your Student Excited About Food Safety
Teach food safety practices with these fun activities
- Fight BAC! – The original consumer food safety education campaign based on the four core practices of clean, separate, cook, and chill; Fight BAC! offers tons of online games and resources to teach children the core values of food safety. (link)
- Food Safety Coloring Books – A timeless activity that will enforce food safety, courtesy of the USDA and University of Tennessee. (link and PDF)
- The Food Safety Mobile Game – Take an interactive tour through food safety. (Link)
- Ninja Kitchen – A fun online game for older students. (Link)
Sources include Chicago Tribune, FoodSafety.gov, FoodSafetyMonth.com, STOP Foodborne Illness, USDA.gov