It’s time to get ready for back to school! While you start planning on what to put inside you or your child’s lunchbox, don’t forget to keep that food safe. According to the CDC, almost 50% of the Salmonella infections that happen each year happen to infants and school-age children. Keeping food safety in mind while preparing and packaging lunch boxes can greatly reduce food poisoning. Here are a few tips that can help make sure that food is packed safely:
Clean, Cook, Separate, Chill:
- Clean: If you’re making lunch the night before, be sure to wash your hands and use clean cutting boards, utensils, and countertops. Making lunch on the same surfaces you used to prepare raw meat or poultry for dinner may result in cross-contamination and lead to Salmonella-related illnesses.
- Separate: Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for meat and poultry.
- Cook: Cook foods to the right temperature using a food thermometer.
- Chill: If the lunch contains perishable food items like luncheon meats, eggs, and yogurt, make sure to pack it with at least two cold sources (e.g. freezer packs and frozen water bottles).
Easy Tips to Pack a Safe Lunch:
- Frozen juice boxes can also be used as freezer packs. By lunchtime, the juice should be thawed and ready to drink!
- Perishable food can be unsafe t o eat by lunchtime if packed in a paper bag. Use an insulated box or bag instead.
- Children should wash their hands for 20 seconds with warm soapy water before eating. Have them sing the ABCs twice while washing if they sometimes finish early.
- If possible, your child’s lunch should be stored in a refrigerator. But leave the lid of the lunchbox or an insulated, soft-sided bag open in the fridge so that cold air can circulate and keep the food cold.
- If you’re packing a hot lunch, like soup, chili, or stew, use an insulated container to keep it hot. Fill the container with boiling water, let it stand for a few minutes, empty it, and then put in the piping hot food. Tell your child to keep the insulated container closed until lunchtime to keep the food hot- 140º or above.
- After lunch, discard all leftover food, used food packaging, and paper bags. Do not reuse packaging because it could contaminate other food.
Download this food safety infographic from www.FoodSafety.gov and keep it handy to help make sure that you or your child are eating a lunch that is safe as well as healthy!