Love those leftovers – back to school and work lunch box food safety advice (16 January 2018)

The Food Safety Information Council today launched their back to school and work lunchbox food safety advice.

Council Chair, Rachelle Williams, said that preparing your own lunch is proving popular as Council research shows that 94 per cent of households with children pack school lunches and 4 out of five adults take packed lunches to work.

‘With the growing interest in cutting down on food waste taking leftovers for lunch is a great idea as it is cost effective and healthier than buying take away but we must remember that they can be a risky food and, if they need heating up, they need to be reheated to 75°C in the centre of the food,’ Ms Williams said.

‘With an estimated 4.1 million cases of food poisoning in Australia each year we need to be extra careful when taking food to lunch or school to make sure the food is handled safely to prevent bacteria from growing.’ Ms Williams concluded.

Here are 6 simple lunchbox food safety tips:

  1. When buying lunchboxes choose ones that have room for a frozen drink or freezer block and are easy to clean and dry.
  2. Always wash and dry your hands thoroughly before preparing food and wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly.
  3. Make sure lunchbox foods are always well separated from other foods in the refrigerator, particularly raw meats, chicken, eggs in their shells and fish.
  4. Keep the lunch cool in the fridge until you are ready to leave home, put an ice brick in it and refrigerate as soon as you get to work (or in a cooler with ice bricks if you work outside). Discard any higher risk foods such as sushi, meat, poultry or eggs if not eaten that day.
  5. Your child’s lunchbox will keep a safe temperature until lunchtime at school as long as it has a frozen drink or ice brick in it. During this hot weather you may want to consider providing safer lunchbox alternatives such as hard or processed cheese, canned tuna or sandwich spreads.
  6. If your leftovers need reheating they must reach 75°C in the centre of the food so either use a meat thermometer to check or use the automatic reheat function in the work microwave and follow any prompts to stir the food or let it stand for a time after reheating.

The Food Safety Information Council would particularly like to thank Tonic Health Media for their support in getting our important food safety messages out to patients and their carers as they wait for GP appointments and other health services.

The Food Safety Information Council is a health promotion charity and Australia’s leading disseminator of consumer-targeted food safety information. The Council aims to address the estimated 4.1 million cases of food poisoning in Australia each year that result in 31,920 hospitalisations, 86 deaths and 1 million visits to doctors on average each year.

NSW Food Authority lunchbox research 

More lunchbox safety advice 

Media contact:

Lydia Buchtmann, Food Safety Information Council, 0407 626 688 or