FSIS Warns of Food Safety Ahead of Students Returning to School

August 21, 2020 Updated: August 21, 2020

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has made it a priority ahead of schools reopening to address the importance of food safety.

In a news release on Aug. 18, the FSIS highlighted several ways to make sure that food safety isn’t one of the concerns that parents and guardians have to worry or stress over amid the CCP virus pandemic.

“Parents are juggling many decisions as students may be returning to school for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and others may still be distance learning,” said Mindy Brashears, under secretary for food safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“You don’t want to add foodborne illness—commonly called food poisoning—to your list of concerns, so take time to plan and prepare your children’s lunch meals safely,” she said.

Bacteria tends to spread quickly at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, the FSIS says, and during these temperatures, bacteria and microorganisms in food and on surfaces can multiply to unmanageable levels, which can lead to food poisoning.

People can contract food poisoning for various different reasons, especially so during the pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They can be caused by any number of things, such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites. They can also be caused by harmful toxins and chemicals that contaminate the food.

The CDC stated that there are more than 250 types of foodborne diseases.

In addition, the FSIS also suggested a few ways to help parents with their children’s lunch packing, including bringing items such as hand wipes, hand sanitizers, soap, and towels.

FSIS explained that amidst the pandemic, people tend to forget to wipe down surfaces, either food preparation surfaces or utensils. The USDA conducted research on kitchen habits on test kitchens and found that people participating in the research “were not washing their hands properly up to 99 percent of the time before and during meal preparation,” and that could put children and students at risk for food poisoning.

Furthermore, the FSIS also suggested that it’s important to separate raw food from ready-to-eat food, especially when it comes to raw meat such as poultry, beef, or pork, to avoid cross-contamination. FSIS encourages parents to prepare separate preparation surfaces such as cutting boards for various foods.

“Harmful bacteria can spread through the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, utensils, countertops, and other ready-to-eat foods you’re preparing,” the news release indicated.

Bacteria can also be avoided by using a food thermometer. The FSIS indicated that by using a food thermometer, parents are able to tell whether the food has been cooked to the point where any harmful bacteria are killed to prevent foodborne diseases.

Although anyone can get food poisoning, some groups of people are more susceptible to food poisoning than others—older adults, young children, pregnant women, or people with a weak immune system (either normally or because of medical issues such as diabetes, liver or kidney disease, HIV or AIDS, those who had organ transplants, or from chemotherapy).

The CDC listed several symptoms of food poisoning, the most common form of foodborne diseases, and those are nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. Other symptoms can also appear, depending on the variation of the foodborne disease that an individual might have contracted, and may also be life-threatening.

Under a normal circumstance, people who have food poisoning issues or foodborne diseases can recover without medical treatment. However, those who are experiencing strong or severe symptoms of food poisoning should consult a medical professional.