Keeping Kids' Packed Lunch Safe All Day (page 2)
Between the morning rush to school and the eventual return home, there is plenty of risk of food-borne illness lurking in your child's lunchbox. Take these necessary precautions to minimize meal-time misfortunes.
What You Need to Know
Top two causes of food-borne illness in packing lunches for school and after school snacking:
- not keeping perishable food cold
- not cooking or reheating food to a high enough temperature to destroy any present germs
No food should be left out at room temperature more than two hours. Temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit constitute a “danger zone” – an environment in which harmful bacteria can multiply rapidly.
How You Can Help
To ensure the safety of your child's sack lunch, remind yourself and your child:
- Washing hands with soap and warm water for twenty seconds is one of the most common ways to stop the spread of bacteria. Make sure this step isn't omitted before eating or preparing lunch.
- Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counter-tops with hot, soapy water between preparing each item.
- Perishable foods, including lunch meats and cheese, should be kept cold with freezer gel packs or a frozen juice carton.
- Insulated, soft-sided lunch bags are best, followed by metal or plastic lunch boxes. When using paper bags, double bag in order to create layers to help insulate food.
- Pack only the amount of food that will be eaten at lunch to eliminate worry about keeping leftovers safe for later. If you are left with perishable leftovers, throw them away.
- Preparing lunch the night before and storing it in the refrigerator can also help keep food cold longer.
- Use an insulated container for foods like chilli, soups and stew. First fill the container with boiling water, empty after a few minutes, then replace with the steaming food.
- Toss all packaging and paper bags at lunch time, to avoid cross-contamination from reusing materials.
When it comes to after school snacks:
- Teach your child how to use a food thermometer to check for safety when using a microwave – leftovers should be reheated to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Stir or rotate food midway through microwaving, or you're left with cold spots where bacteria could still thrive.
- Loosely covering food with lids or plastic wrap will provide moist heat to help heat the food evenly and destroy bacteria.
- Using one-time use containers like margarine tubs to reheat foods may cause warping or melting that allows harmful chemicals to blend with food.
- When in doubt, throw it out! Never taste a food to “test” whether it's safe.
For more on this topic, please see the full article:
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