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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