Back to school food safety tips

September 11, 2008

When packing lunches to take to school or the office, keep the following food safety tips in mind:

  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least twenty seconds before you prepare food or after playing outside, touching pets and using the bathroom. Sing “Happy Birthday” twice while washing hands to make sure you are washing long enough to send germs down the drain!
  • Work on a clean surface. To prevent cross-contamination, always use a clean cutting board. Use one cutting board for fresh produce or bread and a separate one for meat, poultry and seafood.
  • Rinse fruits and vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten. Dry with a paper towel.
  • If lunches are made at home the night before, keep them in the refrigerator until it’s time to go. Make sure the refrigerator is 40° F or below at all times and use an appliance thermometer to check the temperature.
  • Use an insulated lunch box, with an insulated bottle for hot foods or a frozen gel pack or a frozen juice box to keep perishable foods cold. Use a gel-pack, frozen drink, a commercial ice pack or fill a plastic refrigerator container with water and freeze for a homemade freeze pack to keep food cold.
  • Use a thermos to keep soups or other hot liquids hot. Do not pack soups with a cream or milk base.
  • Avoid using mayonnaise or eggs on sandwiches, especially if the sandwich or item isn’t refrigerated or properly cooled.
  • Wrap sandwiches in separate plastic bags or aluminum foil.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables travel well, and they are good for you too. Wash fruits and vegetables before packing.
  • Use only new, clean brown bags. Don’t reuse bags that have carried groceries. Never use a bag that is wet or stained.
  • Wash insulated lunch totes or boxes with hot soapy water after each use.
  • Never leave perishable foods out at room temperature for more than two hours. Toss any perishable food not eaten at lunchtime.
  • If refrigeration is not available, be sure your child keeps his or her lunch in a cool place. Do not place lunches in direct sunlight or on top of a radiator.
  • Include disposable towelettes or hand gel, so that hands get cleaned before eating lunch.


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