It was Mother’s Day recently. I am a mum to two boys aged 1 and 3, and I took the time to reflect on our role. As mothers, our primary role is to protect our children. We do our best each day depending on the situation. This notice is intended therefore as a support to parents whose children benefit from catered school lunches. My goal is to help you protect your children by sharing relevant information of which you may not have been aware.
As a consultant in sustainable packaging for ready-to-serve food, I am sensitive to the issue of food safety rules, and above all to the dangers when these rules are not followed. As part of my job, I have frequent discussions with school caterers and cafeteria supervisors for whom the theme of food safety is extremely relevant.
However, I often hear the following comment: parents demand that their children bring home leftovers from lunch.
My reaction is simple: NO! While the intention behind this request is probably good, whether it’s to assess the child’s appetite or even to prevent the waste of generous portions, this practice is in fact quite dangerous. You run the risk of your child having an afternoon craving before returning home and digging into the lunch leftovers—the same lunch that was sitting in a non-refrigerated locker all afternoon. You run the risk of your child contracting food poisoning.
One of the most important factors in ensuring food safety is temperature. The temperature at which a dish is maintained in the time between being cooked and being served to your child should be higher than 60 degrees Celsius. Food should be cooled between 60 degrees and 21 degrees Celsius in less than two hours and should reach 4 degrees Celsius in less than 6 hours. Without that, micro-organisms that are hazardous to our health cause spoilage in the food—in this case, your child’s lunch sitting in the locker—and make this food dangerous to consume. I can assure you that your child’s meal does not meet these standards and that by the time it arrives home, it is inedible.
I would like those who work in this area, whether it be the caterer, school administration, or others, to put their foot down and simply refuse this request using the same reasonable explanations written here—to protect our children.
Do you have any experiences to share with me?
Are there other reasons that you, as a parent, want your child to bring lunch leftovers home?