Packing the lunchbox with food safety in mind

Have you ever thought about how long a lunchbox stands at room temperature before it is enjoyed? And what that means for your food safety?

You should.

Because, whether you are packing a lunchbox or packing up for a picnic, unwanted bacteria can easily become uninvited guests. But, there are some simple steps to follow to prevent that.

Remember, the risk of foodborne illnesses rises sharply for perishable foods left at room temperature for two hours or more. That is often the case for lunchboxes (or lunch bags).

And, how is the lunchbox handled? Is it carried in a backpack, a tote or purse? Perhaps the lunchbox is kept under a desk or windowsill or stuffed into a gym bag, for a late afternoon lunch or snack. No matter how you carry and then store your lunch, you do need to consider the following 12 food safety tips:

  • a 'hello kitty' lunch bag, as seen on a passerby. [credit:, hesiyi]Use a clean insulated bag or lunchbox that is washed regularly with warm soapy water and dried completely.
  • Use re-freezable ice pack(s) to keep the lunchbox cold.
  • Think about including some hand sanitizer or a moist towelette in your lunch, if hand washing is unavailable. 
  • Rinse raw produce, such as an apple, pear and peach and peel-and-eat fruit, before you pack.
  • Think about storing an insulated bottle in the refrigerator.
  • If you are planning on eating some hot soup for lunch, fill the insulated bottle with boiling water and let it sit for a minute, pour out the hot water, and then pour in the very hot soup.
  • A time-saving tip is to prepare your sandwich the night before and store it in the refrigerator. Get out all of the non-perishables, too, and pack those into the lunchbox, so you’ll be ready to go in the morning. 
  • Once at school or work, store the lunchbox in a clean, cool place. Keep the box off of windowsills, and never keep your lunchbox in a hot vehicle.
  • If possible, refrigerate the entire lunchbox. 
  • Always throw away any perishable items that have not been eaten.
  • If you work in an office that has a refrigerator, label and date any food that you store in the common refrigerator. Pay attention to the expiration dates, and discard any perishable items within three or four days. No one wants to open a refrigerator that contains spoiled food!
  • Last but not least, make sure the refrigerator temperature is set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, whether it’s your home or office refrigerator.

Posted: September 13, 2022

Category: Food Safety, Health & Nutrition
Tags: Food Safety, Foodsafety2022, Pgm_FCS

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