Posted by: Dennis Hinkamp on Sep 5, 2013

How to Pack a Safe Lunch

Ask a Specialist: Do You Have Tips for Packing Safe and Healthy Sack Lunches?

 

Answer by: Darlene Christensen, Utah State University Extension associate professor, darlene.christensen@usu.edu; (435) 277-2406

With kids going back to school, it’s time to think about packing lunches. Consider these tips to keep sack lunches safe

*  Foods should be kept out of the “danger zone,” temperatures between 40 and 140 F. This warm temperature is the perfect environment for harmful bacteria to grow quickly and potentially cause food-borne illness. In order to prevent possible food-borne illness, keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot.

            * Freeze juice boxes or bottles of water ahead of time. Pack them in the lunch to help keep other food items cold. When it is time for lunch, the drink will have thawed.

* Another way to keep foods cold is to purchase reusable ice packs or gel packs. Remember to put them back in the freezer in the evening so they will be ready for the next day’s lunch.

* If possible, keep your lunch in the refrigerator at work or school. Soft, insulated lunch bags work best to keep foods cold and safe.

            * If you don’t want to worry about keeping perishable foods at a safe temperature, consider packing non-perishable foods such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, whole fruits, crackers, nuts and dried fruits such as raisins.

            * Consider packing lunch the night before and keeping it in the refrigerator. This will keep food items cold longer.

            * If packing soup or hot foods, make sure to keep them at 140 F or higher. Heat a thermos by pouring boiling water into it. Then pour out the water and add the soup or other hot items.

* Encourage kids to throw away perishable leftovers rather than bringing them home. When in doubt, throw it out. Remember that leftovers may not have been kept at a safe temperature and may not be safe to eat. Don’t reuse plastic bags or other packaging – they can potentially contaminate other foods. A good tip is to only pack as much food as your child will eat. 

            For further information, visit www.befoodsafe.org or www.foodsafety.wisc.edu/assets/pdf_Files/keeping_bag_lunch_safe.pdf.

 

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    Direct column topics to Julene Reese, Utah State University Extension writer, Logan, Utah, 84322-4900, 435-797-0810; julene.reese@usu.edu

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