It is important to handle food safely so that people do not get sick from food offered in Student Nutrition Programs (SNP)

Food safety requirements

SNPs are food premises and must comply with Ontario Food Premises Regulation 493/17. In January 2020, some changes were made to the Regulation that affects SNPs. These changes affect programs that offer low-risk or ready-to-eat, pre-packaged foods only.

You should consult with your lead agency or local public health unit to find out how the Regulation applies to your program.

Food handler training

SNPs are able to offer a greater variety of foods and beverages if they have at least one volunteer trained/certified in safe food handling.

Food handler training is available in-person and online. Check with your lead agency or local public health unit to learn more about training in your area. They may have food handler training specifically for SNPs.

High-risk foods

High-risk foods are more likely to cause food-borne illness than low-risk foods. The more steps involved in preparing and serving a food increases the chances of bacteria growing in the food.

Some foods are always high-risk (for example, uncooked meat, uncooked eggs) and other foods become high-risk because of how they are prepared or served. For example, pouring milk, cutting cheese, or portioning out yogurt from a large container into bowls makes these foods high-risk. Examples of high-risk foods include cut vegetables, fruits and cheese, cereal with milk, cooked oatmeal, etc.

SNPs that serve any high-risk foods need to have at least one person trained/certified in safe food handling. A person trained/certified in safe food handling can help to ensure that all the program volunteers handle food safely and that the requirements of Ontario Food Premises Regulation 493/17 are met. This person needs to be in the building when the food is prepared and served.

Low-risk or pre-packaged, ready-to-eat foods

Low-risk food is food in a form or state that cannot grow micro-organisms that can cause illness. Ready-to-eat food is food that has no extra processing steps before eating. Pre-packaged food is food that is packaged at a location other than where it is offered for sale. Examples of low-risk or pre-packaged, ready-to-eat foods include whole vegetables, whole fruits, single-serve yogurts, etc.

SNPs that serve only low-risk and ready-to-eat, pre-packaged foods do not need to have someone trained/certified in safe food handling on site footnote 5

However, they should practice safe food handling using the tips below.

Safe food handling tips for SNPs

The tips below are not intended to replace the information provided in safe food handler training programs.

  1. Keep hands clean
    • Hand washing is required before handling any food item. It is an important step to make sure food remains safe to eat.
    • Wash your hands often when you prepare and handle food. Use hot and cold running water and liquid soap. Use an air dryer or paper towels from a dispenser to dry your hands.
    • Do not use alcohol-based hand sanitizers. They are not the same as handwashing.
    • Wash your hands after using the toilet, sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose.  Ask students to do the same.
    • Wear gloves if you have a cut or burn on your hands, artificial nails or rings that can’t be removed. Change your gloves often. Always wash your hands when you change your gloves to make sure they are always clean.
    • Do not touch your hair, face or other parts of the body with your hands when you’re handling food. If you do, wash your hands.
    • Make sure your hair, jewelry or other things do not fall into food.
  2. Buy and offer food that is safe
    • Make sure that all the food you offer in your SNP has been handled safely before you get it. Ask your lead agency and public health inspector for more information.
    • Companies that handle food must be inspected and certify that the food they sell is safe. These include grocery stores, food caterers, restaurants, wholesalers, community food hubs and distributors.
    • Do not offer food prepared in someone’s home.
    • Only use cans that are free from rust and dents and are not leaking or swollen.
    • Do not offer vegetables and fruits that are partly spoiled (for example, have mould or soft mushy parts).
    • You may serve food a few days after the best before date. After this date, food starts losing its taste, quality, etc. but is still safe to eat.
    • Make sure food is not mouldy or stale.  This can happen before or after the best before date if food is not handled properly.
  3. Handle and store foods carefully
    • Your lead agency will give you all the information you need to handle and store food safely.
    • Keep re-usable storage/delivery containers and grocery bags clean. Wash them regularly with hot soapy water and rinse. They do not need to be sanitized if they have only been used with pre-packaged foods.
    • Write the date on all foods when you get them. Serve the older foods first. Do not offer stale bread or baked goods. 
    • Seal packages after they are opened (for example, bread, cereal). If a food is close to its best before date, freeze it so that you can use it later.
    • Keep food off the floor.
    • Keep cleaning supplies and other chemicals away from food and away from students. If student volunteers will be using cleaners, make sure they are trained to use them safely.

Tips for SNPs that serve only low-risk or pre-packaged, ready-to-eat foods

  1. Prepare to serve foods safely

    Contact your lead agency or local public health unit to learn how to set up your site and how to get the equipment and supplies you will need to serve low-risk or ready-to-eat, pre-packaged foods safely. Ask your school principal which sanitizer your school has approved for use on eating surfaces. Find out where to purchase it. Read and follow the instructions for its use.

    • Always wash your hands before handling food. There should be a sink close to where the food is prepared and served.
    • Clean and sanitize sinks, work surfaces and eating surfaces with hot, soapy water, rinse and let air dry. Once dry, spray sanitizing solution and let air dry again.
    • Rinse whole fruits and vegetables under running water and let air dry on paper towels before serving.
  2. Wash and sanitize utensils and surfaces properly

    SNPs serving low-risk or ready-to-eat, prepackaged foods may use a domestic dishwasher or the two-sink or three-sink method for cleaning and sanitizing utensils and dishes (for example, bowls for serving whole fruits or vegetables) that come into contact with food.

    • If there is not a separate sink for hand washing, then make sure the sink is cleaned and sanitized before dishwashing.
    • The rinse and sanitize step should be done in a second or third sink. If this is not available, you can use a dishwash container or bin in place of the second or third sink.
    • Let dishes and utensils air dry or use paper towels. Dish cloths are not recommended for drying dishes and utensils.
    • Sanitize cloths daily, after washing them. Soak the cloths in the sanitizer used to clean surfaces, then air dry. Sponges are not recommended.