Back to School: Lunchbox Food Safety Essentials

A packed lunch is a healthy and cost-effective option, but can be harmful if not prepared correctly. This article outlines food safety for your lunchbox.
August 1, 2016

It’s that time again when kids head back to school and parents are challenged with packing the daily lunchbox.

We know a packed lunch is a healthy and cost-effective option, however, if not prepared properly it can do more harm than good. Each year 4.1 million Australians fall victim to food poisoning, and one cause is a poorly packed lunchbox.

Research released by Food Safety Information Council revealed that a quarter of parents failed to pack their child’s lunchbox properly, for instance forgetting a frozen drink or freezer block to keep it cool.

Always Keep It Cool

As foodborne illness bacteria rapidly grow between temperatures of 5-60 ºC. It only takes a few hours for bacteria to multiply to dangerous levels increasing the risk of food poisoning.

Food Safety Information Council Chair, Rachelle Williams said “Bacteria can grow quickly in some foods, like cooked poultry and other meats, dairy products and sandwich fillings, so it is important to keep their lunchbox cool,”

“At school, your child’s lunchbox will stay cool until lunchtime if kept in their school bag with a frozen drink or freezer block inside the lunchbox,’ Ms. Williams added.

Safe Food Packing Tips

So, next time you’re tasked with packing the school lunchbox – don’t forget to follow these essential food safety tips:

  • Select a good lunchbox – when purchasing a lunchbox select ones that are easy to clean, dry and have room for a frozen drink or freezer block. Also, don’t forget to replace a lunchbox if cracked, split or noticeably scratched.
  • Wash your hands and food – before, during and after preparing food always wash your hands. If packing fruit and vegetables wash those items thoroughly.
  • Select low-risk foods – select low-risk foods such as hard cheeses, freshly cooked meats and poultry, fresh, well-washed fruits and vegetables, shelf-stable snacks and sandwich spreads.
  • Store your food properly – when refrigerating lunchbox foods ensure they’re well separated from other foods, especially raw meats.
  • Keep it cool – keep lunchbox foods in the fridge as long as possible, removing it the moment before you leave home. Additionally, when packing perishable foods such as meats, eggs, cheese and yogurt, be sure to include two cold items such as a frozen drink or freezer block. Also, pack perishable foods between the frozen items to keep cool.

Want More Tips?

For more information, please visit our Resources or Food Safety Courses page. They’re packed with handy tips, videos and how-to guides to help keep you and your family food safety ready and healthy.