Food safety tips from Pinal County for back to school

With children back in school, parents and caregivers are thinking about the best ways to provide a healthy lunch for school children. The Pinal County Public Health Services District would like to remind everyone to follow some simple food safety guidelines to help keep your family safe from foodborne illness.

Keep cold foods cold
Be sure that you have a plan to keep your children’s lunch cool. Long hours in backpacks without temperature control provide a lot of opportunity for bacteria to multiply in food. If you are preparing sandwiches or similar items with perishable foods such as lunch meat, be sure to use an insulated lunchbox with a baggie full of ice or an appropriate reusable cooler to help keep your child’s lunch cold and safe. One great alternative is to use a frozen water bottle; this not only helps keep foods cold, but it also provides some refreshment at lunch time.

Wash fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables provide a great healthy choice in your child’s lunch. Be sure that you rinse any fruits or vegetables under running water prior to packing the lunch.

Do not carry over leftovers
We all know that kids sometimes do not eat their entire lunch. Avoid the temptation to take that turkey sandwich from today and re-use it in lunch tomorrow. After a full day sitting in a backpack or a locker, even with a lunch cooler, that sandwich may not be safe. Make a fresh lunch daily.

If in doubt, throw it out
This is a great rule of thumb to help keep food safe. Ever wonder if that week old leftover is still good enough to eat? Well, if it is questionable, err on the side of caution. This simple rule can really come in handy to help keep your family healthy and safe from foodborne illness.

Wash your hands
Hand washing is one of the best ways to avoid illness. It is important to thoroughly wash your hands prior to making your child’s lunch. Don’t forget, it is also important to remind your children to wash their hands prior to eating their lunch.

Keep sick kids home
Lots of things besides food can make your child sick. Many infections are easy to pass around and children are particularly vulnerable. Director of Public Health Tom Schryer states, “If your child is ill keep them home from school.  It’s best for both your child and the school if they stay away from others while sick and get the extra care they might need.  If necessary take your child to see a doctor.”
For more information on Pinal County’s food safety program, visit the Pinal County Environmental Health Services webpage at http://pinalcountyaz.gov/ehs, or call 866-287-0209.

The Apache Junction Independent is mailed each month to 35,000 homes.

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