Keep your cool heading back to school

Friday, 27 January 2017

As students across the state prepare for a hot start to the 2017 school year, parents are being reminded to ‘play it cool’ when packing lunchboxes.

SA Health’s Director of Food and Controlled Drugs, Dr Fay Jenkins, said parents may not realise that everyday lunch items can pose a food poisoning risk if not prepared or stored properly.

“Foods stored in a warm lunch box or bag for several hours can reach temperatures that allow potentially harmful bacteria to multiply,” Dr Jenkins said.

“This can be particularly problematic in some foods like chicken, fish, meat, sushi, certain types of soft cheese such as brie or camembert, milk, cooked eggs and salads.

“To avoid this, parents should pack food in an insulated lunch box, a cooler bag or include an ice brick in the lunch box, which can help keep foods cold until lunchtime.

“Another handy tip is to freeze your child’s water bottle overnight and place them in the lunch box. The water will thaw by lunchtime, but will keep the rest of the lunch cold until it is time to eat.

“It’s also a good idea to ask your children to keep their lunches out of direct sunlight in a cool, dark place such as a locker, or to put them in a class fridge if one is available.

“Interstate research has shown that while 94 per cent of households with children pack their own school lunches, a quarter of those don’t include an ice brick or frozen water bottle to keep their food cool.”

Dr Jenkins said the hot temperatures forecast for Monday were a timely reminder for parents not to be complacent.

“We encourage parents to choose safer alternatives during warm weather, which can include hard or processed cheese products, canned tuna, and sandwich spreads such as Vegemite,” Dr Jenkins said.

“Food poisoning is nasty at any age, but children can be particularly susceptible, so it’s important parents are aware of the dangers and put measures in place to minimise the food poisoning risk.”

Other food safety lunchbox tips include:

  • Always wash your hands with soap and dry thoroughly before handling food.
  • Wash lunch boxes with hot, soapy water and dry before re-use.
  • If lunches are made the night before, keep them in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Foods such as sushi, meat, poultry or egg should be discarded if not eaten that day.
  • Discourage children from swapping lunch items with their friends as they may have food allergies.

Symptoms of food poisoning include nausea, vomiting, watery diarrhoea and fever.

For more information about food safety, visit

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