Pack a Safe and Healthy Lunch

Are you packing a lunch for your child to take to school or maybe for yourself to take to work? Harmful bacteria can grow and multiply quickly in a lunch that is not packed safely, possibly leading to illness. Children especially can be at a greater risk of foodborne illness. Here are a few simple, but important tips to help keep your packed lunches safe until lunchtime.

Start out safe with clean hands, utensils, and surfaces, such as countertops and cutting boards. Rinse and dry fruits and vegetables before packing. Do not pack perishable foods that have been left out for more than 2 hours, or more than 1 hour when the room temperature is 90 degrees or above. Examples of perishable foods that need to be kept cold include milk, yogurt, cheese, boiled eggs, cut fruit, luncheon meats, and salads or sandwiches made with mayonnaise.

Keep cold foods cold by packing two ice sources. This can be a frozen gel pack and a frozen juice box or frozen water bottle. Insulated lunch bags with soft sides are best for keeping foods cold.

Keep hot foods hot by using an insulated thermos. To help keep foods like chili, stews, or soups hot, begin by filling the thermos with boiling water and let it set for about 5 minutes. Drain the water and fill with food that is hot. Keep closed until lunchtime.

Pack healthy shelf-stable foods such as whole grain breads or crackers, granola bars, nut butters, whole fruit, and dried fruit. These foods do not need to be kept cold and can make a nutritious afterschool snack.

Encourage hand washing before eating using soap and scrub for 20 seconds. You can pack a moist towelette and hand sanitizer as a back-up plan. Use the towelette first to take off visible dirt and then apply hand sanitizer.

Pack only the amount of perishable food that will be eaten at lunch and ask your child to throw away any leftover foods that should be kept cold. Leftovers brought home may fall within the food temperature Danger Zone (between 40 and 140 degrees) and may not be safe to eat. Wash insulated lunch bags in warm soapy water before the next use.

Foodborne illness can be scary and dangerous, but by following a few simple steps, you and your family can enjoy a safe, healthy lunch.

Resources: BAC to School: Pack a Safe Lunch 101 | Partnership for Food … Packing a Safe “Brown Bag” School Lunch | USDA › packing-safe-brown-bag-school-lunch Packing a Safe School Lunch Fact Sheet – Ok › health2 › documents

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