UF/IFAS expert offers food safety tips for new school year

Kids in a school cafeteria to promote the My Plate and YUM nutrition programs.

Please see caption below story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As your child returns to school next month, you can help him or her eat safely at school. You also can count on federal, state and local officials to be trained to make sure your child’s school meals are safe, says a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences food safety researcher.

Amy Simonne, a professor and food safety Extension specialist in family, youth and community sciences at UF/IFAS, gives these school food-safety tips:

Keep cold lunches cold and hot lunches hot. Discard the food after lunch.

  • Keep everything clean: Before you start packing lunches, wash your hands with soap and warm water. “That’s the minimum they can do,” she said.

 

  • Don’t cross-contaminate: Harmful bacteria can spread through the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, utensils and countertops. Always wash cutting board, dishes, utensils and countertops.
  • Pack just the amount of perishable food that can be eaten at lunchtime.Find out more at http://bit.ly/1uw0wUy.

In addition to helpful hints for parents, Simonne points to training that school cafeteria workers must go through before they serve food.

These workers follow the U. S. Food and Drug Administration’s Food Code, a model that helps people in charge of serving food with a scientifically sound technical and legal basis for regulating the retail and food service segment of the industry. Local, state, tribal and federal regulators use the Food Code as a model to develop or update their own food safety rules and to be consistent with national food regulatory policy.

If they follow the recommended practices in the Food Code they address the most common risk factors: food from unsafe sources, improper cooking, improper holding of food that needs time and temperature control, improper cleaning and sanitation of equipment and utensils and poor personal hygiene practice. School food workers are supposed to go through training in all these areas. The policies in the Food Code also protect food from unsafe sources, improper cooking, storage, cleaning and sanitation as well as poor hygiene, Simonne said.

The Food Code suggests school districts implement a sick-leave policy that ensures that anyone who has contracted a food-borne illness stay out of school until a doctor has given them permission to return.

“When people don’t follow the rules, chances of an outbreak are higher,” Simonne said.

According to the Florida Department of Health: An outbreak is an incident in which two or more people have the same disease, exhibit similar symptoms or excrete the same pathogens; and there is a time, place, and/or person association between these people. A foodborne outbreak is one in which a common food has been ingested by such persons.

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Caption: As children are seen taking food in a school cafeteria back to a table, UF/IFAS food safety expert Amy Simonne offers numerous tips on how parents can make sure their children are eating safe food while at school.

Credit: UF/IFAS file.

By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

Source: Amy Simonne, 352-273-3536, asim@ufl.edu