Local health officials provide tips for safe school lunches

WATCH: Safe school lunches

SHELBY CO., Tenn. — When it comes to a place your child is going to be eating at five days a week, you want it to be clean.

Kasia Smith-Alexander, the administrator of environmental health services with the Shelby County Health Department, spoke with FOX13 about dealing with school cafeterias.

She said health inspectors head out a minimum of twice per year for inspections, and they will go out for unscheduled visits too.

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"If there's a complaint or if a teacher, parent or student complains about food is cold, milk is warm… because we do get those complaints as you can imagine," Smith-Alexander said.

According to Smith-Alexander, each time a complaint is submitted, someone is sent out to investigate.

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She told FOX13 that cafeterias typically do very well with inspections.

"Most cafeterias do not receive poor scores," she said.

Parents can rest easy knowing that most school cafeteria inspection scores available on the Tennessee Department of Health website boasted nearly perfect scores.

However, there were some outliers.

One common issue across the board was overflowing dumpsters outside of the cafeterias.

"They're using a lot of disposable items now, so a lot of times their dumpsters are overflowing," Smith-Alexander said.

More than one in six people nationwide get sick from a foodborne illness every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

So how can you make sure your kids are safe?

Smith-Alexander said tables shouldn't be sticky, cafeteria employees should be wearing gloves, and milk should never be warm.

One thing the health department added was that some parent complaints end up being from times they pack their own kids' lunches.

Smith-Alexander urges parents to remember ice packs when packing something that needs refrigeration.