Keep Those School Lunches Cool

Nothing’s better than a homemade lunch from mom — packed with love — to perk up a kid’s school day. But, in the morning hustle, make sure the lunch you pack is safe.

You probably prepare a fresh lunch in the morning, but it may be several hours before your child actually eats it. Bacteria begin multiplying after just two hours at room temperature.

These foods should be kept cold
Salmonella, staphylococcus and E coli are just some of the bacteria that have the potential to contaminate food. They especially love “perishable” foods. Be sure to these foods are kept cold until ready to eat:

•Cooked meats, such as cold cuts and lunch meats
•Pre-made tuna, chicken, egg or pasta salads
•Dairy products (milk, soft cheese and yogurt)
•Cut fruits and vegetables
Prepackaged combos that contain luncheon meats — along with crackers, cheese and condiments — are also at high risk for contamination and should be kept cold.

Here are some lunchbox favorites that are safe at room temperature:

•Bread, crackers and cereal
•Peanut butter
•Whole, uncut fruit and vegetables
•Unopened canned fruit
•Dried fruit
•Unopened juice boxes
•Hard cheese
•Nuts and seeds
•Unopened cans of tuna, meats or poultry
Tips for packing a safe lunch
Though it takes forethought, keeping your child’s lunch safe from food borne illness is not hard. All you need is good hygiene habits and planning. Here’s what to do:

Practice good preparation techniques.

•Keep everything clean when you make and pack school lunches.
•Wash hands, food-preparation surfaces, utensils and kitchen counters with hot, soapy water to rid them of germs.
•If you make school lunches ahead of time, keep them in the refrigerator or freezer until your child leaves for school.
How to keep cold foods cold.

•Soft, insulated lunch bags or boxes are the best choice for keeping lunches cold. Wash them with hot soapy water after each use.
•Along with an insulated bag, include a freezer gel, small ice pack or frozen juice box. Place it right next to the sandwich.
•Consider freezing your child’s sandwiches. This works better with coarse-textured breads that won’t get soggy when they thaw. The sandwich thaws in time for lunch and keeps everything else in the lunch box cold. (If your children like lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise on their sandwiches, pack those separately).
•Use a thermos to keep milk or juice cold until lunchtime.
•Instruct children to keep their lunches in the coolest place possible. A refrigerator is the best bet. If not, remind them to keep it out of the sun and away from any heat source like a radiator.
How to keep hot foods hot.

•In addition to keeping perishable foods cold, hot foods — such as soup, chili or stew — should be kept in an insulated bottle.
•Add hot water to the insulated bottle. Let it stand for a few minutes. Then empty and fill with the hot food.
Finally, encourage your kids to wash their hands before and after eating. A moist towelette

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