The Perfect Lunchbox

Posted by Admin | Posted in Be Healthy, Food Safety, For Fun, FYI, Kids, Seasonal | Posted on 10-08-2012

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This is the second article in our feature on school lunch–just in time for the new year!

Lunchbox

As the school year approaches, the health and safety of your child, while at school, is at the forefront of your mind. In order to keep a child’s mind keen and his or her body healthy and active, safe and proper nutrition is key. Bringing lunch from home is a great way to do this, as you control which foods are presented to your child. Here are a few tips on packing the perfect lunch box and keeping the food packed in a safe way.

1. Clean the lunchbox before and after use. After your child has picked out the perfect lunch box with matching food containers, thoroughly clean the lunch box, food, and drink containers properly with warm water and soap. A good thorough cleaning will not only get rid of that all-too-familiar lunch box smell, but it will also keep foodborne pathogens at bay and away from your child’s immune system. If dish duty cuts into your time, use a clean paper bag and clean plastic bags to store lunches.

2. Consider perishable and non-perishable food items. A school lunch box will have a good mixture of perishable and non-perishable food items. Some popular favorites that are easy to store are known as non-perishable food items. These are items that can be kept at room temperature for more than a few hours without danger of rapid bacterial growth. Perishable food items include cold foods that must stay cold or hot foods that should be kept hot for the hours between morning and lunch time, or they run the risk of foodborne illnesses. Some of these perishable food items include milk and other dairy products, sandwich or deli meats.

3. Control temperature and stay out of the “Danger Zone.” To ensure the safety and preservation of the food packed, be sure to keep foods at their appropriate temperatures, and far away from the “danger zone.” The USDA explains, “Harmful bacteria multiply rapidly in the “Danger Zone”–the temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees F. So perishable food transported without an ice source won’t stay safe long.” Some ideas to keeping food away from the “Danger Zone” is packing non-perishable food items, cold gel packs, or even frozen juice boxes to keep foods cold until they can be eaten at lunch. Opting to buy milk straight out of the school’s refrigerator is another safe option. If you have trouble differentiating between perishable and non-perishable food items, pack a cold pack just in case.

4. Remind your child to clean his or her hands. Before your child eats their lunch, remind them of proper hygiene. Washing their hands and using hand sanitizer before they eat can cut down on the dangers of foodborne illness. Pack a small container of hand sanitizer and a little reminder note to wash their hands with soap before eating. Teaching them that they can get sick from germs if they don’t wash their hands will keep them informed and encourage proper hand washing habits.

5. Dispose of unsafe food items to protect your child from foodborne illness. When the lunchbox comes back home with the child after a long and hard day at school, throw away all perishable food items that were not consumed, like the half eaten and browning banana and the rest of that crumbling cheese stick. These items will not have kept all day in a lunchbox. All plastic and paper products should also be thrown away after one use. As children are among those highly susceptible to foodborne illness, take extra precautions when preparing and storing their lunchboxes.

 

–Amanda Salisbury

 

Sources: foodsafety.gov, USDA

Lunch Without the “Extras”

Posted by Admin | Posted in Be Healthy, Food Safety, For Fun, H1N1, Kids, Seasonal | Posted on 08-08-2012

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Lunch

August is already upon us, and we all know what that means: it’s about time for our children to hit the books once again! For a parent, this can either be a great relief (“Ah, I can finally get back on a schedule and put my house back together!”) or it can be a concern, as we worry what our students might face at school. Perhaps we worry about difficult classes, that infamous teacher, the school bully, or sicknesses our students are sure to catch. However, we might be overlooking a danger that comes from our very own kitchens: home-packed lunches. We are all busy, but it is important to take the time to prepare safe food for our children if we are sending them lunches each day. Here’s a little review, and perhaps some new information, to consider when packing a safe home lunch for your child.

First, be sure to work on a clean surface. If you are setting your child’s bread on a counter that has not been sanitized, you are basically sponging up anything that was previously sitting on your counter. Your child then gets to enjoy an added, bacteria-infested ingredient on his or her sandwich. Be sure to wipe down your counter surface with soap and water before preparing any food. In addition, don’t jump up in the morning and immediately grab the food from the fridge. Make sure you have washed your hands thoroughly. It may seem elementary, but many forget this simple step or trust their own hands just a little too much. If you don’t wash your hands, you are running the risk of spreading bacteria onto your child’s food, which can cause foodborne illness. Wash your hands before, during, and after you prepare the lunch, especially in between handling different food items such as meat and produce. When you wash your hands, wash them under hot water for at least 15-20 seconds. (If you have to, sing those ABC’s.) As you do this, you can have confidence that your child isn’t going to ingest bacteria from your house or hands as they enjoy lunch.

Second, pause for that produce! In other words, don’t just throw those fruits and veggies in your child’s lunch box. These food items must be rinsed thoroughly before they are eaten. Fruits and vegetables are grown in areas full of pesticides and herbicides. These chemicals can still be on the food when they get to your house, making them a potential health hazard. In addition, many unknown hands have touched those fruits and vegetables before reaching your own. As a result, many illnesses such as E. coli and Salmonella could be hiding on the surface. So again, pause for that produce. Give it a good washing, so your child can eat the fruit, minus the gunk.

Finally, if food is meant to be cold, keep it that way. This is particularly true with meat. If you are sending your child a turkey or ham sandwich, make sure that sandwich is accompanied by an ice pack in a cooler. Most likely, your child won’t be eating that meat for at least four hours. During that time, warm meat can grow all sorts of fun bacteria, causing foodborne illness and potentially making your child quite sick. Not only does the meat need to stay cold, but the mayonnaise and cheese as well. According to meatsafety.org, meat should be cold to the touch if it’s going in your mouth. If it’s room temperature, it’s better in the trash. As a side note, also make sure your meat has not expired. Meatsafety.org suggests “When in doubt, throw it out.” Meat is good for three to four days in a well-refrigerated area.

It’s nice to know what your child is eating at school for lunch. Preparing a nutritious, packed lunch is a great way for you to monitor your child’s health needs. But make sure you’re not sending more than you bargained for by not adequately preparing the food.  By keeping your hands, surfaces, and foods clean, as well as cold, you can rest assured that your child is getting the healthy nutrition he or she deserves, without “all the extras.”

Angela Bond

 

Sources:  food-safety-and-you.com, About.com, meatsafety.org

Stainless Steel Makes Food Safety Easy

Posted by Emilee | Posted in Be Healthy, Food Safety, For Fun, FYI, In the News, Kids, Seasonal | Posted on 23-07-2012

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LunchBots

Meet the new kid on the block. LunchBots provides stainless steel lunch boxes that are “easy to love. It’s eco-friendly and won’t stain or leach anything into food. It can handle hot or cold, goes through the dishwasher, and is nearly indestructible (even for kids). Stainless items are pricier upfront, but think of all the plastic sandwich bags you won’t be buying over the next 180 days of school.”

Because the LunchBots are steel, they help contain the heat that is in the food that’s packed. In order to make sure their lunch is safe for your child to eat, “perishable cold foods must be kept below 40 F. Hot foods should be held at above 140 F. If those temperatures aren’t held, you have a two-hour window to consume the food before it becomes unsafe to eat.”

Stainless steel gives you more freedom to choose what goes in your child’s lunch. They have dividers so you don’t have to worry that the juice from the orange slices will get the still cold turkey sandwich soggy. No one likes a warm soggy turkey sandwich, especially not your picky child.

For more information visit: heraldextra.com

 

–Ashley Pack

Must Read for Domestic Chefs: USDA Kitchen Companion

Posted by Emilee | Posted in Be Healthy, Food Safety, Foodborne Illness, For Fun, FYI, Online Resource, USDA | Posted on 06-07-2012

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USDA Kitchen Companion

For those of you who eat food, specifically food prepared under your own roof (i.e., your kitchen), the USDA’s Kitchen Companion: Your Safe Food Handbook is the perfect summer read!  This 45-page pamphlet is full of helpful tips and hints about killing the nasty foodborne pathogens lurking on your food, thawing a turkey, preventing freezer burn, picking a thermometer, and the Dos and Don’ts of grocery shopping. It’s a complete guide to protecting your family against the threats of foodborne illness they encounter every time they put something in their mouths (beverages included).

There have never been great statistics about foodborne illness contracted from home-cooked meals, generally because people are hesitant to call the health department over Aunt Mae’s rice pudding. However, the average American eats at least 5 dinners at home–and 76 million of us are sickened each year with foodborne illness. You can imagine that at least some of that has to do with chicken thawed on the counter overnight or groceries left in a hot trunk during soccer practice. But never fear, moms and dads, you have the power to crack down on the crimes of time/temperature abuse, cross contamination, and improper cooling and reheating. Let Kitchen Companion be your guide. Literally.

Our recommendation: Hit up the source link below, print your free copy of Kitchen Companion, pack a cooler (at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or lower), go to the closest park or beach, and read up on how to keep your family safe from foodborne illness. So what if all your friends are engrossed in the summer’s hottest thriller? Tell them that what you’re reading is from the True Crime section.

 

Source: USDA

Emilee Follett

Food Safety During Emergencies

Posted by Admin | Posted in Food Safety, FYI, USDA | Posted on 16-04-2012

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Tomorrow, Utah is holding its first statewide earthquake drill to help citizens prepare for potential disasters.  As we at StateFoodSafety.com get ready to participate in the “Great Utah Shakeout,” I started thinking about appropriate ways to keep food safe during emergencies.

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has offered a helpful fact sheet about food safety emergency preparedness methods. First, it is important to remember that meat, poultry, fish, and eggs should be kept at or below 41 degrees F, which may be difficult in an emergency if the power is out. Without power, an unopened refrigerator can only safely hold cold foods for about four hours. Placing dry or block ice in the fridge may help maintain a cold temperature, but if the power is going to be out for a prolonged period of time, you might be better off stocking up on shelf-stable foods that do not require refrigeration or extensive preparation. Make sure to also keep ready-to-use baby formula and dry pet food in your food storage supply.

If you live in an area that is prone to flooding, you will want to keep your food storage on shelves that will keep the food safe from contaminated flood waters. The FSIS warns that you should never consume food that may have come into contact with flood water. Similarly, you should discard food that has been near a fire because of the potential damage caused by heat, smoke fumes, or chemicals used to fight the fire. Keep a supply of bottled water on hand, a gas-powered stove for cooking food or boiling water, a food thermometer to help you determine if foods are safe to eat, an appliance thermometer to help you check the temperature of the refrigerator or freezer, and soap and chlorine bleach for cleaning dishes, utensils, and other cookware.

Being adequately prepared for emergencies when it comes to food safety will help you “minimize the potential loss of food and reduce the risk of foodborne illness.”

Madelyn Tucker