Now that students are back in school and many parents will be packing lunches, it’s time to fight bac – bacteria, that is! Texas A&M AgriLife Extension is here to provide some food safety tips that everyone should know.
Of course, the obvious factor is to be sure kitchen surfaces and utensils are clean when preparing foods. When preparing school lunches, keep in mind that the food is left at room temperature for more than two hours, and perishable foods can put children at risk for foodborne illness. Children typically have a higher risk of foodborne illness as their immune systems are not sufficiently developed to resist the bacteria that can grow on foods.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, perishable food at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees are in the temperature danger zone, and can allow bacteria to double in as little as 20 minutes. To help prevent bacteria and foodborne illness, follow these tips:
1) Use an insulated lunch box or double paper bags. If your child is taking a lunch requiring refrigeration, find out if they have access to a refrigerator at school and remind them to put their lunch in it as soon as they get to school. Also, don’t forget to clearly mark your child’s name on the lunch container.
2) Use cold pack to cool perishable items such as lunch meats, eggs, cheese, cut fruit, and yogurt. Cold packs should also be used even in insulated lunch boxes or bags when they contain perishable food. You can also freeze water or juice and use that to keep perishables cold – the liquids should thaw by lunchtime.
3) Use an insulated container to keep hot lunches at a warm temperature. Put boiling water into the container and let it sit for a few minutes, then pour the water out. Put the hot food in the container (like soup, stew, chili, macaroni & cheese, etc.). This will help keep the contents warm until lunchtime.
4) Leave lunches in the refrigerator overnight if packing them the night before. To ensure the best results, store with the lid of the lunchbox or bag left open in the refrigerator so there’s optimal air circulation to cool it down.
5) Put individually packaged disposable wipes in the lunch box or bag and remind children to use them before and after eating. Also reinforce the importance of hand-washing before meals.
6) Even though it’s tempting for a child to keep uneaten portions of the lunch and consume them after school, this is not a good idea! Leftover food should be discarded, along with all used food packaging and paper bags. Reusing packaging is a bad idea, as it could contaminate other food and cause foodborne illness. Keeping unrefrigerated perishables in a lunch box or bag so you can eat the later means they’ll probably be in the temperature danger zone for a while, becoming a safety risk.
So, parents and caregivers, do your homework when it comes to packing a safe school lunch. After all, today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders, and we want them to get a good education without worrying about food safety!
Cooking Well with Diabetes
September is very rapidly approaching, so that means the “Cooking Well with Diabetes” is not far behind, either! I am now taking registration for this 4-lesson series, which focuses on helping individuals with diabetes and anyone that prepares food for them. The series also includes cooking demonstrations and sampling. Topics are: Carbohydrate Foods – recognizing carbohydrates in recipes and using sweeteners effectively; Making Recipes with Fat Better for You – healthy fats and fat substitutions; Double-Pleasure Side Dishes – reducing sodium and increasing fiber; and Celebrating Sensibly with Diabetes – special event recipes that are healthy & delicious, and handling eating out.
The series is scheduled for Tuesdays and Thursdays, September 12, 14, 19, and 20, at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office, 1200 W Houston, Sulphur Springs. (We are directly in front of the Civic Center and next door to the Southwest Dairy Museum.) Two times are being offered to accommodate participant schedules, so pick the time that works best for you – 1:30 or 6:00 p.m. You may even mix and match times!
The fee is $25, payable at the first session and includes materials, recipes, cooking demonstrations, sampling and door prizes. Please call the Extension Office at 903-885-3443 if you plan to attend so adequate arrangements can be made.
Every day, do something that will bring you closer to a better tomorrow.