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a vintage beatles' yellow submarine lunchbox with thermos

Food safety tips for packing a school lunch

With the start of the school year quickly approaching, families begin preparing their students for the school year. Notebooks, pens, paper and a new backpack populate most “to purchase” lists.

Oh, and a lunchbox.

My children always wanted to select the perfect lunchbox. It needed to be “cool,” but I needed it to be able to keep my children’s lunches safe from foodborne illnesses. So, for me, it meant the lunchbox had to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

But, choosing the right lunchbox is just one of many steps you should take to keep your student’s lunch safe, including:

  • Always prepare lunch with clean hands and on clean surfaces.
  • Perishable items, such as a sandwich or cut fruit/vegetables, need to stay chilled.
    • Use an appropriately sized cold pack, understanding that gel or cold packs will keep foods cold for a few hours, not all day.
    • Think about preparing sandwiches and slicing fruit/vegetables the night before and store in your refrigerator. This saves time in the morning for other things.
  • Rinse fresh fruit under cold, running water before packing it into the lunch box.
  • If you do pack some hot soup for lunch, it’s a good idea to fill the insulated bottle with boiling water and let it stand for a minute or two. Then, add your hot soup to the insulated container. This also helps keep the soup at a safe temperature until lunchtime.
  • If you include in the lunchbox non-perishable items, like crackers, don’t re-use plastic bags. Students should discard plastic bags after use, because the bags can contaminate other foods in the lunchbox.
  • Lastly, have your student store their lunchbox in a refrigerator at school, if possible. If this isn’t an option, keep the lunchbox away from a hot windowsill or direct sunlight.

One more thing: remind your student about the importance of proper handwashing.That is, wash for 20 seconds with warm water and soap BEFORE sitting down to enjoy lunch with friends.

For additional information, visit www.fightbac.org.

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