If you pack a school lunch for your child, LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames wants you to follow certain food safety tips from the Fight BAC! safety campaign. She says these recommendations will reduce the incidence of foodborne illness.
• Think cleanliness. Make sure your hands, food preparation surfaces and utensils are clean. Use hot, soapy water to get rid of bacteria effectively. Teach your children to wash their hands before they eat. Also, wash fruits and vegetables before packing them in your child's lunch.
• Be sure to keep hot foods hot. Put soup, chili or stew in an insulated bottle. Prepare the bottle by filling it with boiling water and letting it stand for a few minutes. Empty the bottle and then fill it with piping hot food. Keep the bottle closed until lunchtime.
• Keep cold foods cold. Invest in a freezer gel pack (available in supermarkets and kitchen supply stores) and an insulated lunch box. Freezer gel packs will keep foods cold until lunchtime, but Reames does not recommend them for all-day storage. Any perishable food (such as meat, poultry or egg sandwiches) not eaten at lunch should be discarded.
• If you pack a brown paper bag, it's especially important to include a cold source. A freezer gel pack or a frozen sandwich works well. Because bags tend to become soggy or leak as cold foods thaw, be sure to use an extra bag to create a double layer. Double-bagging also helps insulate the food better.
• Tell your child to use the refrigerator at school, if one is available. If not, make sure they keep their lunch out of direct sunlight and away from heaters, baseboards and other heat sources found in the classroom.
• Keep a supply of shelf-stable foods on hand for easy packing. These foods include fresh fruits and vegetables, crackers, peanut butter sandwiches, packaged pudding and canned fruits or meats.
• Freeze single-size juice packs overnight and place the frozen drink in your child's lunch. The juice will thaw by lunchtime, but it will still be cold. The frozen drink will also keep the rest of the lunch cold.
• If you make sandwiches the night before, keep them in the refrigerator until packing up to go in the morning.
For information on related family and consumer topics, click on the Family and Home link on the LSU AgCenter homepage, at www.lsuagcenter.com.
On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: www.lsuagcenter.com
On the Internet: Fight BAC!: www.fightbac.org
On the Internet: Food Safety Web site: www.foodsafety.gov
Source: Beth Reames (225) 578-3929, or firstname.lastname@example.org
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture