Safe school lunches

Some ideas to prepare safer school lunches are:

  • Always wash your hands with soap and water and dry them thoroughly before handling food and remind children to wash their hands before eating.
  • If a reusable lunch box is used, wash it with hot, soapy water and dry it before re-use.
  • If lunches are made the night before, keep them in the refrigerator overnight.
  • When packing children's lunches, either pack a frozen ice block drink in the lunch box to keep food cold (summer and winter) or choose foods that will not 'go off'. That is, do not pack foods that would normally be kept in the fridge, such as milk, soft cheese, meats or eggs, even in sandwiches.
  • Fillings for sandwiches that are fairly safe under warmer conditions are often those fillings that can sit on a shelf without needing refrigeration, such as honey, yeast extracts and peanut butter products. Also consider including in lunches fruits, vegetables, hard cheeses, meat and fish in cans, bread, crackers, pickles and spreads.
  • Discourage children from swapping lunch items with their friends as they may have food allergies. In some schools where there are children with severe allergies (for example to nuts and nut products), parents may be asked by the school to not to include these products in their children's school lunches.
  • At lunchtime, discard all used food packaging and paper bags. Do not reuse packaging because it could contaminate other food and cause foodborne illness.
  • Pack just the amount of perishable food that can be eaten at lunch. That way, there won't be a problem about the storage or safety of leftovers. Any perishable food, such as meat, chicken or egg sandwiches, should be discarded if not eaten that day.
  • Ask children to keep packed lunches out of direct sunlight and away from heat sources.