2014-09-03 / News

Think food safety when packing school lunches

It’s “back to school” time! As parents are preparing for all the back to school necessities, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development reminds parents to follow basic food safety guidelines when packing lunches for their children.

School Lunch Food Safety Tips:

• When it’s time to handle food for your child’s lunch, remember to always keep it clean. Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food. Use hot water and soap to make sure food preparation surfaces and utensils are clean. Show children how to wash their hands with warm, soapy water before they eat, which is even more critical to help stop the transmission of disease like influenza.

• Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten. Blot dry with a paper towel before packing them in your child’s lunch.

• Your child’s lunch could include perishable items (sandwiches, fresh fruit) and shelf-stable items (crackers, packaged pudding). Perishable items need to be kept chilled to reduce risk of foodborne illness.

• Insulated, soft-sided lunch totes are best for keeping perishable foods chilled. A cold source, such as a small frozen gel pack or frozen juice box, should be packed with perishable foods. Frozen gel packs will keep foods cold until lunchtime, but are not recommended for all-day storage.

• Use a thermos to keep milk or juice cold until lunchtime. You can also use an insulated thermos to keep hot foods hot. Fill the bottle with boiling water and let it stand for a few minutes. Empty the bottle and then fill it with piping hot food. Keep the bottle closed until lunchtime.

• Remind your child to keep his/her lunch in the coolest place possible. If the school has a refrigerator, put the lunch in there. If not, keep the lunch out of direct sunlight and away from radiators, baseboards and other heat sources found in the classroom.

• Make sure your child knows to throw out all used food packaging and perishable leftovers. Do not reuse plastic bags as they could contaminate other foods leading to foodborne illness.

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