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An important issue for many in the food service industry is how to safely package food, and for the ordinary public the issue of packing a safe lunch is also an important one.
Another important source of food poisoning is ready-to-eat type foods such as heat and eatmicrowave meals. As per the instructions on most microwave meals you should let the food stand for a minute or two after microwaving because even whilst standing the food is still generating heat which is helping to kill harmful bacteria.
On the other hand, foods that are packed in a lunch box should remain cold. The reason for this is that harmful bacteria flourish at certain temperatures. Therefore perishable foods will not remain fresh and safe without an ice source for very long. When packing a child’s lunch box for school or even one for yourself, you should use frozen gel packs to keep it cool. Frozen juice boxes will also help. If your office has a refrigerator, store your food in it to keep it fresh.
Also if your lunch contains meat and was left out at room temperature for an extended time you should discard the lunch. If it has been out of the fridge for more than two hours it may be contaminated.
Also before preparing lunches, wash your hands thoroughly. Wash for at least 20 seconds rubbing hands together with soap, then rinse thoroughly and dry with a clean towel.
When preparing a lunch for work or school remember these pointers:
- The importance of clean hands
Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly to stop spreading bacteria, with soap and water for 20 seconds before preparing foods and each time before eating. Also wash the utensils and cutting boards you use to prepare the lunch and make sure the food preparation surface is cleaned with soap and hot water before use.
- Pack light
Don’t over pack lunches because if there is wastage it will have to be discarded because it won’t be safe to eat after being exposed to room temperatures all day. Preparing food the night before and storing overnight in the fridge will help keep food cold and fresh longer.
- Avoid cross-contamination
Whenever preparing food never reuse packaging such as paper or plastic bags or foil as you risk cross contaminating the food. Throw away used food packaging and perishable leftovers unless there is a fridge to keep it cold until it is time to go home.
- Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold
Keep hot foods hot using a thermos flask, for foods like stew or soup. Before using the thermos flask pour boiling water into it and allow it to stand for a few minutes before emptying it and putting in the hot food. Keep the flask closed until you are ready to eat because once it is opened bacteria may enter and it will become contaminated. Cold food should be kept close to an ice source and refrigerated if possible.
- Reheat the proper way
When using a microwave to reheat, food should be covered so that the moisture is retained and food heats evenly throughout. If food reheats unevenly some parts may be hot while others not and bacteria can grow. Food should come out of the microwave steaming hot. Frozen microwave meals should be cooked according to the manufacturer’s instructions on the packaging and allowed to stand a minute after microwaving.
By following these simple steps you can ensure your lunches are safe and time spent off work and school due to food borne illness is avoided.