July 15, 2024

It’s Back to School Time! USDA Has Safe Lunch Box Tips

It’s back to school time! Many schools are starting in the next couple of weeks. And the USDA has safe lunch box tips to keep your child’s lunch healthy and free from pathogens.

It's Back to School Time! USDA Has Safe Lunch Box Tips

More than 50,000,000 kids attend schools in the United States. A large percentage of them bring lunches from home. These lunches can be healthy, but if they are made with perishable items such as cooked meats, chicken, cheese, or egg, they must be kept at a safe temperature to prevent illness.

For a safe lunch box and bag, start with an insulated lunch bag or box. Brown paper bags are not appropriate for any foods other than whole apples and cookies. The bag should be packed with a frozen gel pack or a frozen juice or drink box or water bottle to make sure that the food is kept out of the danger zone of 40°F to 140°F.

Remember that these insulated boxes and bags cannot cool food down. You must add food that is cold so it stays cold. And hot foods must be added to the bag while hot.

For soups, chili, and stews, use an insulated thermos inside the insulated lunch box. First, fill the container with boiling water to heat it and let it stand for a few minutes. Drain the thermos and immediately add the hot food. Seal the thermos, tell you child to keep it closed until lunch time, and put it in the insulated lunch box.

To be completely safe, choose foods that do not require refrigeration. good choices include whole fruits, raw and uncut vegetables, hard cheeses, unopened shelf stable meats, chicken, and fish packed in cans  and pouches, chips, crackers, bread, and peanut butter and jelly.

Leftovers must be discarded; the lunch box, again, will not cool food down. Tell your child that he or she cannot eat leftovers.

And always practice good basic hygiene and kitchen safety when preparing foods. Wash your hands before you make the lunch. Keep counters clean and avoid cross-contamination between foods that are eaten raw and uncooked meats and poultry.

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