Packing a school lunch is something a lot of parents do on a daily basis. They put effort into making the food healthy and delicious, but what about keeping it safe? Packing a school lunch the wrong way could cause health problems or illness, just as packing the wrong types of foods. Here are some basic food safety tips to help make your child’s lunch is the safest it can be this year – and they also apply to any packed lunches you make for yourself, or other family members too.
Wash your hands before making lunch
This may seem like a basic concept, but it is so easy when you’re at home, to forget to wash your hands on a regular basis. Even in your home you can get your hands dirty and contaminate them with all manner of bacteria and viruses. Keep your family safe by washing your hands before you prepare all of their foods, not just at packed lunch time. You can never be too careful with little immune systems.
Wash all of your lunch containers daily
Thermoses, food containers, and even the lunch bag itself should all be washed daily. If your littles don’t dispose of their food trash at school, as soon as they get home, remove all the old food and toss it in the trash, unless it is not temperature sensitive of course. Afterward, wash all containers with warm soapy water and rinse thoroughly. Bacteria can grow on these containers at a surprisingly fast rate, and using them again without properly washing them can result in your child getting sick and then possibly the rest of the family.
Keep the food at the right temperature
If your food needs to be kept hot, make sure you use a thermos to keep it as hot as possible during the day. If the food is temperature sensitive and needs to be kept cool, make sure you pack ice packs around it. Keep all foods in a well ventilated room that is not too hot. All food should be kept in the microwave or refrigerator until the last minute and added to the containers and lunchbox immediately before sending it to school with your child.
Pack foods Correctly
Hot foods should not touch cold containers. This will result in the cool containers warming up too fast. Keep containers that can melt (like Ziploc bags or plastic wraps) away from warm containers, in case of melting. Make sure all containers are closed tightly and properly before placing in the lunchbox so that food stays fresh. If the box must be packed a certain way (ie: ice pack goes in a specific compartment) be sure to follow instructions to make it work properly.
This is by no means a comprehensive set of food safety tips but they do cover the most basic issues encountered with packed school lunches. Making sure you follow these steps will help ensure your family enjoy a food safe return to school this fall.
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