How to ace the school lunch safety test

Published by the NSW Food Authority

Coordinating the back to school rush can be trying at the best of times but there is help at hand when it comes to ensuring school lunch safety.

NSW Food Authority CEO Dr Lisa Szabo said the risk of food spoiling and food poisoning is a common concern of many parents, particularly in the warm months of the first school term.

“As temperatures rise so does the risk of food poisoning,” Dr Szabo said.

“We do tend to see a seasonal trend where the rate of Salmonella, one of the most common bacteria associated with food poisoning, increases in summer.

“The basic rule of thumb is to keep it cool for school in order to reduce that risk.

The best way to keep food safe and also to avoid food spoiling in a lunchbox is to keep it cool.

“Food safety is of particular importance for children because they can be susceptible to the more severe consequences of food poisoning,” Dr Szabo said.

The NSW Food Authority recommends the following:

  • cold foods should stay cold, invest in an ice block and insulated lunch box to keep foods cold until lunchtime
  • freeze water bottles or drinks and place them in the lunch pack. The water or drinks will thaw by lunchtime, but will still be cold and assist in keeping the lunch cold
  • some food is safe without a cold source; these include whole fruits, vegetables, hard cheeses, meat and fish in cans, bread, crackers and some spreads
  • ask children to keep packed lunches out of direct sunlight and away from heat sources. A cool, dark place like a locker is better
  • if lunches are made the night before, keep them in the refrigerator overnight
  • if you are including dinner left overs as lunch the next day ensure the food is still fresh and has been stored correctly

“The other important thing to remember in going back to school is food allergies, whether it is your own child who suffers or playing your role in protecting other children who may have a food allergy,” Dr Szabo said.

“Most NSW schools and childcares have a nut free policy, because it is a high-risk allergen, but it is worth checking with your individual school about rules pertaining to foods containing allergens.”

Check out the school lunchbox page on the NSW Food Authority’s website for plenty of school lunch safety tips.

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Tuck into safe tucker this Australia Day

With Australia Day just 2 days away and our temperatures at extreme, the NSW Food Authority is urging people to keep an eye on the temperature of your food; keep hot food hot and cold food cold.

CEO of the NSW Food Authority Dr Lisa Szabo said temperature control is a key factor in reducing the risk of food poisoning especially when you’re cooking outdoors and enjoying the Aussie summer.

“Hot summer days and the traditional Australia Day BBQ are a perfect combination, however it’s also a perfect environment for bacteria to grow,” Dr Szabo said.

“There is typically a seasonal increase in Salmonella, one of the most common bacteria associated with food poisoning, during the warmer months.”

Food kept inside the danger zone of 5 to 60 degrees Celsius has an increased risk of bacterial growth, so it’s important to chill food below 5 degrees or heat it above 60.

Dr Szabo said cooking and eating outdoors does bring its own set of unique challenges but following some simple food safety rules can help reduce risk.

“I suggest that people begin by practicing the same level of hygiene at a BBQ or picnic as you would when cooking in your own kitchen at home and always start by thoroughly washing and drying your hands, if you don’t have access to soap and water then sanitising gel or wipes could be used as an alternative,” she said.

“Just like home it’s important to keep your preparation surfaces clean and being outside keep an extra vigilant eye out for pests like flies.”

The NSW Food Authority recommends that if you’re having a barbecue on 26 January, you follow a few simple tips for outdoor cooking and dining:

  • don’t eat cooked foods, or foods that should be refrigerated, that have been left out for more than two hours;
  • if you’re travelling, store uncooked and ready-to-eat foods in separate sealed containers and keep them cold during transport using a chiller bag or esky;
  • keep benches, equipment and tableware clean and dry;
  • some meats need to be cooked thoroughly, there should be no pink left in cooked meat like mince, sausages or chicken; and
  • use separate plates and utensils for cooking and serving.

For the NSW Food Authority’s full list of food safety tips for summer cooking and dining visit www.foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/summer

Keep Your Kid’s Lunchbox Safe

The typical Australian summer sizzling heat and our kids are getting ready to return to school here are 5 simple lunchbox food safety tips, issued by the Food Safety Information Council:

  • When buying lunchboxes choose ones that have room for a frozen drink or freezer block and are easy to clean and dry.
  • Always wash and dry your hands thoroughly before preparing food.
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly.
  • Make sure lunchbox foods are always well separated from other foods in the refrigerator, particularly raw meats, chicken and fish.
  • Keep the lunch cool in the fridge until you are about to leave home.

Food Safety Information Council Chair, Rachelle Williams advised ‘We need to transport food to school safely to ensure our kids don’t become one of the estimated 4.1 million cases of food poisoning in Australia each year. 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 concluded.

35 people affected by Salmonella Food Poisoning in SA

Toddler hospitalised as food poisoning linked to Gawler South Bakery salmonella worsensChicken salmonella outbreak

The number of salmonella poisoning cases linked to the Gawler South Bakery north of Adelaide has more than doubled in the past four days, SA Health has confirmed.

On Friday, health authorities reported 17 cases but that number has since increased to 35 and is expected to climb further.

Nine people have been hospitalised including two children, one aged two.

“We’ve now seen cases in people aged two years old up to 70 years old and we are anticipating more cases as further test results come through,” SA Health public health director Kevin Buckett said.

“This is a significant outbreak, it’s quite a large number of people.

“We don’t know yet that this outbreak is actually over. We know that the laboratories still have some stool samples waiting to be tested.”

The latest contamination has been linked to products “mostly with chicken in the ingredients”, including filled sandwiches, wraps, rolls and focaccias that are made and sold at the bakery.

This morning, food safety inspectors and council staff returned to the bakery, which has two Gawler outlets.

“We don’t think it’s the product that’s coming into the bakery that’s contaminated,” Dr Buckett said.

“Somehow there’s been cross-contamination associated with probably less than adequate sanitation and cleaning, and also the potential to mix raw food with cooked ready-to-eat food.

“The bakery has been given the all-clear to start preparing sandwiches and we will be up there again later in the week before they go out into the market place.”

SA Health said signs of salmonella include fever, diarrhoea, vomiting, headaches, stomach cramps and loss of appetite.

Those symptoms can develop between 12 and 72 hours after exposure, and health authorities have urged anyone who develops them — especially young children, the elderly and pregnant women — to see their doctors.

An earlier salmonella outbreak at the bakery in October 2016 affected eight people.

Clearly it is time the SA Health department made food safety training mandatory as in most other Australian States.