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Food safety - packed lunches

Packed lunches can be a healthy and nutritious lunch. However, they are often prepared many hours in advance and are an ideal breeding ground for the bacteria that cause food poisoning.

A recent classroom survey showed that packed lunches were frequently kept at a temperature of above 20°C. To be safe, food should be kept below 8°C.

Follow these guidelines to ensure a safe lunch;


  • wash and dry your hands before you start to prepare food. Cover any cuts with a waterproof plaster
  • clean work surfaces with an anti-bacterial cleaning solution before and after food preparation
  • check that all food to be used is within the use-by or best-before date
  • wash all salad ingredients under cold running water, including bags of ready-prepared salad
  • keep raw and cooked foods separate during storage and preparation. If possible use different chopping boards and utensils for cooked and raw products. Disinfect surfaces in between preparing raw and cooked foods
  • cook meat and poultry thoroughly to destroy bacteria. It should be cooled as quickly as possible and stored in the fridge until required. Never put hot food in the fridge
  • prepare sandwiches in the morning. If you do make them in advance keep them in the fridge
  • to keep sandwiches fresh, wrap with greaseproof paper or foil and place in a plastic sandwich box
  • ensure your refrigerator is working properly – check with a thermometer


  • keep packed lunches cool. The best way to do this is to pack the lunch in an insulated cool bag along with an ice pack. Cool bags should be used throughout the year
  • pack any snacks for breaks separately from lunch items, as this will prevent the lunch pack from being opened too often
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