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Food safety of school lunchboxes

 

Common modes of production of school lunchboxes

Common pathogens

Food safety problems

Production flow charts for school lunchboxes

Summary of possible food safety measures

Role of schools

 

All stakeholders (e.g. government, trade, teachers and parents) have a role to play in ensuring that lunchboxes provided to school students are safe. Schools and parents can exercise their control through careful selection of lunchbox suppliers and monitoring of their performance. Information below is intended to assist schools and parents in both understanding the principles of producing safe lunchboxes and selecting the most suitable supplier.

 

Common modes of production of school lunchboxes

l           Cook-serve (conventional) system

In a cook-serve system, most food items are prepared primarily from ingredients on the day they are to be served. However, since school lunchbox suppliers have to prepare a lot of lunchboxes before (number of lunchboxes may vary from a few hundred to a few thousand), they usually prepare foods 2 to 4 hours in advance of service time. The food items are then held hot until they are distributed to schools for consumption.

 

l           Cook-chill system

In a cook-chill system, a central kitchen cooks foods thoroughly and then chills the foods rapidly in a blast chiller (e.g. at or below 4°C within 1.5 hours) to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. The foods are then stored at or below 4°C. On the next day, the foods are distributed to satellite kitchens (reheating centers at different districts) for reheating and then to schools for consumption.

 

Common pathogens

l           Staphylococcus aureus

l           Clostridium perfringens

 

Food safety problems

Cook-serve

l           Inadequate cooking (i.e. foods not thoroughly cooked)

l           Post-cooking contamination (e.g. cooked foods contaminated by food handlers during packaging)

l           Improper hot holding (i.e. cooked foods stored at unsuitable temperature for a prolonged period of time)

 

Cook-chill

l           Inadequate cooking (i.e. foods not thoroughly cooked)

l           Post-cooking contamination (e.g. cooked foods contaminated by food handlers during packaging)

l           Improper cooling

l           Inadequate reheating


Production flow charts for school lunchboxes

 

Cook-serve                                                                           Cook-chill

Production flow charts for school lunchboxes



Summary of possible food safety measures

Steps

Cook-serve

Cook-chill

Cooking

ü         Where possible, cook all foods items (including gravy and soup) on the day of consumption

ü         Cook foods thoroughly (i.e. core temperature at 75oC or above)

ü         Cook foods thoroughly (i.e. core temperature at 75oC or above)

Portioning and Packaging

ü           Avoid preparing foods too far in advance before consumption

ü           After cooking, pack foods into containers as quickly as possible

ü           Pack foods under carefully controlled sanitary conditions (both personnel and equipment) in order to prevent cross-contamination

ü           If not packed immediately, keep foods in utensils maintained at above 60oC

ü           After cooking, pack foods into containers as quickly as possible

ü           Pack foods under carefully controlled sanitary conditions (both personnel and equipment) in order to prevent cross-contamination

ü           Chill foods as quickly as possible after cooking (e.g. within 30 minutes of cooking)

 

Rapid Chilling

 

ü         Chill foods rapidly (e.g. within 90 minutes) to 4°C or below

ü         Store foods at 4oC or below immediately after chilling

Hot Holding

ü         Immediately store foods in thermal boxes or other utensils maintained

at above 60°C

 


 

Steps

Cook-serve

Cook-chill

Distribution to Satellite Kitchens

 

ü         Keep foods at 4oC or below during transportation

ü         At satellite kitchens, store foods immediately in chillers maintained at or below 4°C

Reheating

 

ü         Reheat foods to core temperature at 75°C or above

Distribution to Schools

ü           Use thermal boxes or other effective means to keep foods at above 60°C

ü           Use thermal boxes or other effective means to keep foods at above 60°C

Serving

ü           Deliver to students as quickly as possible for consumption

ü           Deliver to students as quickly as possible for consumption

Role of schools

(I) Choose and monitor lunchbox suppliers carefully

ü         Order lunchboxes from premises with a valid Food Factory Licence issued by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department

ü         Before making a decision,

l           collect more information about suppliers from various sources (e.g. obtain information from other schools)

l           invite suppliers to your school to explain the production of lunchboxes (e.g. size of premises, number of staff, experience, anticipated volume of production, modes of production, training, knowledge and commitment on food safety and nutrition, price, handling of complaints and channels of communication, etc.)

l           visit suppliers to ensure that food handlers observe safety and hygiene practices. For example:

n           are storage areas, preparation areas and toilets clean, tidy and in good repair?

n           are cooked foods stored separately from raw foods to avoid cross-contamination?

n           are there adequate facilities for hot holding/rapid chilling?

n           are unused lunchbox containers well-protected from contamination? (e.g. are containers tightly wrapped and stored in a clean area?)

n           are there adequate facilities for food handlers to practice hygiene? (e.g. are there adequate number of wash basins for cleaning hands? Are the wash basins provided with soap/detergent and drying facilities such as disposable paper?)

n           are food handlers wearing appropriate protective clothing?

n           do food handlers wash their hands after coughing, sneezing, handling waste?

n           do food handlers wash their hands properly?

n           do all food handlers (including part-time employees) receive proper food safety training?

ü         avoid ordering high risk food items (e.g. salad, sushi, etc.)

ü         ensure that the supplier has adequate personnel, equipment and facilities (e.g. adequate utensils, chillers, etc.) to produce, handle and store high risk food items if these items are ordered

ü         visit and monitor the supplier regularly (e.g. once for every school term)

ü         for the cook-serve system, make sure that:

n           foods are thoroughly cooked (i.e. core temperature at 75°C or above)

n           facilities or equipment are available to keep cooked foods at above 60°C during hot holding, packaging, transportation, etc.

n           foods are packed under carefully controlled sanitary conditions (both personnel and equipment) in order to prevent cross-contamination

ü         for the cook-chill mode of production, make sure that:

n           foods are thoroughly cooked to core temperature at 75°C or above

n           foods are packed under carefully controlled sanitary conditions (both personnel and equipment) in order to prevent cross-contamination

n           foods are chilled as quickly as possible after cooking (e.g. within 30 minutes of cooking)

n           foods are rapidly chilled (e.g. within 90 minutes) to 4°C or below

n           dedicated walk-in units, where possible with temperature monitoring systems, are present for the storage of chilled foods

n           foods are kept at 4oC or below during transportation to satellite kitchens

n           at satellite kitchens, foods are stored immediately in chillers maintained at or below 4°C

n           foods are reheated to core temperature at 75°C or above

n           during transportation, foods are kept at above 60°C

ü         Where possible, check the temperature monitoring records

(II) Ensure food safety at school

ü         keep the place (e.g. school hall or classrooms) of consumption clean

ü         take samples to measure the temperature of the foods. Hot foods should be kept at above 60°C while cold foods should be kept at 4oC or below.

ü         arrange students to have lunch as soon as possible

ü         students should wash their hands thoroughly before eating.

ü         stop eating the foods if abnormalities are found in the foods and immediately lodge a complaint to the supplier or the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.

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2007 copyright logo | Important notices Last Revision Date : 10-11-2009