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Advice for a Safe Packed School Lunch

By Tiffany Glenn, M.S., R.D.,L.D. Registered Dietitian

Most parents are more concerned if their kid is actually eating what they packed verses if it is safe after sitting for hours unrefrigerated.  A study just published in the journal Pediatrics, indicates that fewer than 2% of the perishable foods packed in sack lunches for kids ages 3 – 5 were at safe temperatures.  According to the CDC, 1:6 Americans will get food poisoning this year.  Thirty-one organisms are known causes of 9.4 million of these illnesses, but 38.4 million people will be sickened by unknown pathogens.  The "Danger Zone" is temperatures between 40 – 140 degrees, not uncommon in packed lunches and are ideal for bacterial growth.

Here are some tips:

  • Keep everything clean when packing the lunch.  Wash your hands before you prepare the lunch and keep your counters clean.  Wash all fruits and vegetables.  Pack a pocket size hand sanitizer in their lunch box.  Instruct you kids to not put their food on the lunch table.

  • Keep Cold Foods Cold.  Use an insulated lunch box and use a freezer gel pack.  Make sure the foods are cold before they are packed.  Sandwiches can be make ahead of time and kept refrigerated or frozen before placing in lunch box.   Refrigerate fruit cups.  Place perishable foods around ice pack.  You can also freeze a bottle of water or juice box to help keep things cold.

  • Keep Hot Foods Hot.  For hot foods, use an insulated bottle in an insulated lunch box.  Fill the bottle with boiling water and let stand for a few minutes, then empty and fill with hot foods.

  • Consider pantry-safe foods packed in easy-to-open containers, like tuna that can be eaten out of the can.  Dried fruits, peanut butter, crackers, juice sold unrefrigerated can tolerate room temperature.

  • Discard any food left in lunch box when child gets home.  Do not reuse any plastic bags as they could contaminate other foods.





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By Tiffany Glenn, M.S., R.D.,L.D. Registered Dietitian
Categories:  Kid's Health & Safety

About the Author

Tiffany Glenn, M.S., R.D.,L.D. Registered Dietitian

Tiffany Glenn, M.S., R.D.,L.D. Registered Dietitian

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