PC1 laboratory rules and eating in classrooms

PC1 laboratory rules and eating in classrooms: Are all school laboratories classified as PC1 laboratories and if so are students permitted to eat in classrooms?  For example, when a teacher wants to demonstrate digestion practicals, can they eat shop bought items such as biscuits, lollies to demonstrate why mastication is important or if they've used food as a model e.g. snack tectonics, can the students eat them?  When practicals revolve around the making of cheese or yogurt  using lab equipment can the created items be consumed?  Many thanks for your reply.

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Publication Date: 19 October 2016
Asked By: mlsa2016
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PC1 laboratory rules and eating in classrooms

Expert Answer

In brief: School laboratories designated specifically for science practical activities are usually, but not always constructed to PC1 standard.

Eating and drinking should not occur in any science laboratories. This is clearly stated in AS/NSZ 2243.1:2005, Safety in laboratories, Part 1: Planning and operational aspects, s4.1 Requirements for Safe conduct, which says:

(i) Do not handle, prepare, store or consume food or drink for personal consumption in the laboratory.

NOTE: Refrigerators, freezers, ovens, microwave ovens used in the laboratory should be labelled to prohibit their use for food or drink for personal consumption.1

Activities conducted in science rooms or using science equipment may use or cook food items, but the food must not be consumed by staff, students or visitors. There are potentially many contaminants in science laboratories. These can come from chemicals, dissection material, biological and microbiological specimens.

If a teacher would like to conduct activities that involve eating, then an alternative room should be arranged such as the home economics areas which have facilities that follow safe food handling procedures. In this way activities can be conducted where the students may eat the food.

Further information:

A Physical Containment Level 1 (PC1) laboratory is a classification given to laboratories with certain physical structures that enable the safe handling of material likely to contain microorganisms that are classified as Risk Group 1 microorganisms.

Physical containment is the term used to describe procedures and structures designed to reduce or prevent the release of viable organisms into the outside environment2

Digestion practical activities using food could be substituted with alternative activities such as:

  • Where students need to masticate food by crushing, substitute by using a mortar and pestle.
  • Where human saliva is required, substitute with commercially available amylase (diastase or clarase). Amylase breaks down starch into sugar. Qualitative and quantitative tests for the presence of sugar are suitable for students to perform.

Note: Human body fluids should not be used in school science practical classes due to the risk of disease transmission and their use is prohibited in most school jurisdictions.

Eating food produced can be arranged using alternate rooms and equipment

  • Snack tectonics: Geology, earth’s layers, and plate tectonics demonstrations can be eaten provided the activity is not conducted in a science laboratory. Students handling food items should thoroughly wash their hands before handling food. Ensure that food for consumption is not stored in the laboratory or prep room, refrigerators or freezers used for storage of science chemicals or biological material. Food for consumption should not be prepared using science ovens, microwave ovens or science equipment.
  • Cheese and yogurt making: The making of food for human consumption such as cheese and yoghurt or the preparation of ginger beer and other similar activities involving foodstuffs should occur in dedicated food preparation facilities such as Home Economics areas using equipment specifically provided for preparing food for human consumption. Equipment from alternative areas of the school should not be cleaned in laboratory sinks or dishwashers. Any shop bought food that has been used in an activity in the science laboratory should not be consumed.

We refer you to a previously answered question on this topic:

Eating in labs

Here are some previously answered related questions:

Enzyme preparation for experiments.


Using body fluids in science


1 This extract from AS/NSZ 2243.1:2005, Safety in laboratories, Part 1: Planning and operational aspects is reproduced with permission from SAI Global Ltd under Licence 1407-c117

2 This extract from AS/NSZ 2243.3:2005, Safety in laboratories, Part 3: Microbiological safety and containment is reproduced with permission from SAI Global Ltd under Licence 1407-c117

Western Sydney University. Laboratory Safety. http://www.uws.edu.au/whs/whs/labsafety (accessed October 2016)

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