It’s back-to-school time and you’re probably already sick of packing lunches but stay vigilant! When preparing a packed lunch for your child, it is important to follow guidance from the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service to prevent food-borne illness says USDA spokeswoman Tanya Brown.
Children are among the most vulnerable to food poisoning, according to the USDA, so parents and caregivers need to take extra precautions when preparing and packing healthy, safe meals. Here are some of Brown’s top tips to help keep your kids safe:
- Insulated containers should be used to keep hot lunches like soup, chili or stew, at a warm temperature. Filling the container with boiling water, letting stand for a few minutes, emptying, and then putting in the piping hot food helps keep temperatures high. Brown says tell your kids DO NOT open it until it’s time to eat!
- Two cold packs should be included in packed lunch or snacks if perishable items like lunch meats, eggs, cheese, or yogurt are included. Frozen water or juice can be used as a freezer pack. The liquids should thaw by lunchtime and be ready to drink.
- Disposable wipes can be packed for cleaning hands before eating, but schools should be making sure children wash their hands before meals.
- All leftover food should be discarded after lunch, along with all used food packaging, and paper bags. Do not reuse packaging because it could contaminate other food and cause food-borne illness.