August is National Sandwich Month! A great time not only to try a different type of sandwich, but also to practice food safety in the preparation and transport of perishable foods to work or school.
Many people may not be aware that sandwiches are high risk food illness items. Sandwiches can contain perishable (those likely to become unsafe to consume if not kept refrigerated), raw or fresh ingredients and the preparation steps of sandwiches involve manual handling – both of which, if handled improperly, can result in foodborne illness.
Sandwiches made at home will be safe if they are first handled properly. Avoid cross-contamination during sandwich assembly and storage.
Likewise, perishable food must be kept cold while commuting via bus, bicycle, on foot, in a car, or on the subway. After arriving at school or work, perishable food must be kept cold until lunchtime. Without proper storage, i.e. improper time and temperature control, pathogens may grow and multiply and cause food poisoning.
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The Temperature Danger Zone
The temperature “Danger Zone” is the temperature range between 40°F and 140°F in which bacteria that cause foodborne illness can begin to multiply. At temperatures of 80°F and above, they multiply even more rapidly.
Keep Perishable Food Cold
Perishable food (refrigerated), including meat, poultry and eggs, must be kept cold at all times. Transport perishable food as fast as possible when no ice source is available. Always refrigerate perishables promptly.
Potentially hazardous food that remains in the temperature “Danger Zone”, 40-140 °F, for more than 2 hours should be discarded – 1 hour if the temperature is above 90 °F .
Sandwich Food Safety Key Concepts
Here are some guiding food safe principles and procedures that will avert a possible sandwich food illness:
Choose Sandwich Type Wisely
Before even preparing a sandwich, think about the sandwich choice and the environment. First, think about timing: When will you eat the sandwich, and how long will it be sitting around? Then think about temperature: Will it be traveling in sweltering heat or be tossed around in a backpack, or will there be ice packs or even refrigeration?
These things should factor into what kind of sandwich you make. If you know that you can’t keep the sandwich cold and it’ll be a hot day, stay away from egg salad, mayonnaise, or fresh cheeses – since they’re highly perishable.
Preparation – Keep Everything Clean & Don’t Cross-Contaminate
Before beginning making a sandwich, make sure to wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds.
Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next item.A solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water may be used to sanitize surfaces and utensils. Keep family pets away from kitchen counters.
Harmful bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, utensils, and countertops. Always use a clean cutting board. When using a cutting board for food that will not be cooked, such as bread, lettuce, and tomatoes, be sure to wash the board after using it to cut raw meat and poultry. Consider using one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for meat and poultry.
Pack Only What is to be Consumed
Pack just the amount of perishable food that can be eaten later. That way, there won’t be a problem about the storage or safety of leftovers. After lunch, discard all leftover food, used food packaging, and paper bags. Do not reuse packaging because it could contaminate other food and cause foodborne illness.
Keeping Perishable Food Cold.
To keep sandwiches cool away from home, include at least two cold sources. You can use two frozen gel packs (not smaller than 5×3-inches each) or combine a frozen gel pack with a frozen juice box or frozen bottle of water. Freeze gel packs overnight. When packing your bag lunch, place them on top and bottom of the perishable food items to keep them cold. Of course, if there’s a refrigerator available at work or school, store perishable items there upon arrival. If you place your insulated bag in the refrigerator, leave the lid or bag open so that cold air can keep the food cold.
Some food is safe without a cold source. Items that don’t require refrigeration include whole fruits and vegetables, hard cheese, canned meat and fish, chips, breads, crackers, peanut butter, jelly, mustard, and pickles.
Now that you know these basic food safety sandwich principles, you can choose, prepare and pack your sandwiches safely, confident that they’ll be food safe when it comes time to eat.