Scary school lunch survey: Australian Food Safety Council warning

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 25th January 2012

A recent national survey conducted by the Australian Food Safety Information Council has shown 8 percent of adult workers and an alarming 20 percent of children who take a packed lunch to work or school, make no attempt to keep their lunches cool.

Council Chairman, Dr Michael Eyles says, “food poisoning bacteria can grow quickly during hot weather and in the healthier foods such as salad and cold meat that we pack for lunch these days.”

The national survey concluded that while 79 percent of Australians say they package the food with a frozen drink or ice brick, more than one in five admit that their children do not pack or store their lunch in a refrigerator, cooler bag or esky nor use any ice brick or frozen drink.

The survey also showed that those living in major cities are more likely to fail in ensuring children’s lunches are kept cool, with 24 percent saying they do not do so compared with 12 percent in rural areas.

The Food Safety Information Council recommends the following steps to reduce the risk of bacteria growing on packed lunches:

  • packing a frozen juice, water bottle or commercial ice pack with the lunch
  •  Perishable foods such as cheese and sandwiches being placed between the frozen items
  • refrigerating the lunch until just before departure from home
  • Children’s lunches if stored in school bags are to be kept away from direct sunlight and stored with a frozen drink
  • adults can store their lunches in a fridge or esky at work and likewise if possible in schools
  • preparing foods with clean utensils
  • washing hands before eating lunch should be standard procedure at schools
  • if reheating leftovers, heat all the way through, until steaming hot
  • lunchboxes or drink bottles need to be thoroughly washed before and after use.
  • if cracked, split or crazed the lunchbox should be disposed of as bugs grow between cracks; and
  • all leftovers that have not been refrigerated should be thrown out.