Back to School Lunch Box Safety

Back to School Lunch Box Safety
With kids headed back to school, it’s time for a little refresher on lunch box food safety! Nearly half (49 percent) of Americans admit to leaving lunches that require refrigeration out of the refrigerator/cooler/freezer for three hours or more. This means nearly half of us are playing Russian roulette with food poisoning! Ew!

Lunches containing perishable foods should never be left out of refrigeration for more than two hours, so reduce your risk of food poisoning with these tips to keep food safe as it travels from the kitchen to the school cafeteria or office. Remember the food clock starts from the minute you make the food, not when you drop the kids off to school. 😉

Many lunch box systems now include small ice packs that you can refrigerate the night before, but often they are very tiny and melt within 30 minutes – especially if you live in a warm climate, or the kids’ backpacks are left outside during class in the blazing sun.

If you’re having a problem keeping the lunch cool, the easiest trick is to freeze a water bottle overnight and use that as the ice-pack. By the time lunch rolls around (and it could easily be 5 hours from lunch pack time to actual ‘lunch), the water should be defrosted and the lunch still cool. Just remember to package everything with Tupperware or a protective layer so the condensation doesn’t get on the food. No one likes a soggy sandwich!

It’s also a good idea to pack shelf-stable foods such as nuts, granola/cereal bars, bagels, whole fruit, dried fruit, single-serve applesauce and whole-grain crackers. However, sometimes kids enjoy a sandwich with mayo (even though the debate rages on whether commercial mayo spoils quickly or not), eggs, tuna or a yogurt – so make sure to protect these items! A call from the school office saying your kid is throwing up in P.E. class is most unwanted!

The biggest no-no is having a perishable food item in the lunch that is unfinished, and then your child eats it in after-care or after school as a snack. That is too much time for a perishable food item to sit in a lunch bag! Kids at an early age can learn what foods are ‘shelf safe’ and which ones need to be tossed by the end of the day. If there is something that could spoil, give your child a gentle reminder before school.

Eat Safe & Happy Back to School!


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